April Fool’s Day: My mother use to joke that April 1 was a hoax because that was the day she and my father were married (it lasted 57 years until his death). I am reminded of that because it snowed in southern Virginia on their wedding day in 1942. It also snowed in the Washington area early Tuesday morning, according to my daughter. It wasn’t a hoax!

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one another is almost universal in every culture, and yet no one seems to know why. Precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held March 25, and the Medieval Feast of Fools, held December 28. This is still a day when jokes played in Spanish-speaking countries.

In France an April fool is called a poisson d’avril, an “April fish,” perhaps because young fish that appear in streams around this time of the year are more easily caught than older, cagier fish. French shops sell chocolates shaped like fish for the occasion. People try to pin paper fish on each other’s backs as a joke, and the perpetrator cries out triumphantly, “April fish!”

I find that appropriate for Ships Watch. At least March finally has marched away!