Gaelic and Celtic Customs
from the Hebrides and Beyond

Fada's Farsaing (Far and Wide) is a series of articles by Liam O Caiside in English but with Gaelic words and phrases interwoven in the text. The articles describe a wide range of Gaelic and Celtic customs. These pages were originally published in the "Scottish Radiance" e-magazine and have been reproduced here with the kind permission of the Scottish Radiance editor, Sharma Krauskopf.

Hunt the Gowk

The first of April is known as Hunt the Gowk in Scotland. People tell lies and play jokes on each other up until noon. The name is believed to come from an old trick where a person is sent out with a message:

Dinna laugh, an' dinna smile
But hunt the gowk another mile.

The 'gowk' is also another name for the cuckoo, which is a silly bird. At each place the message bearer is sent on to someone else.

It is also said that in the Middle Ages, up until the late 18th century, New Year's Day was celebrated on 25 March (Feast of the Annunciation) in many European towns. In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on 1 April. Many writers suggest that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates- and we've been playing April Fool jokes ever since.

The media often enter into the spirit of the day (you always have to be careful about "news" stories but be especially alert on any printed in the papers in the morning of 1 April). Sometimes they excel themselves. In 1957, the respected BBC programme "Panorama" had an item on 1 April in which people in Switzerland were shown gathering the spaghetti harvest from trees. Those who asked how they could grow their own spaghetti were told to place a sprig of pasta in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.... See also Believe It Or Not. The actual BBC TV broadcast can be found on YouTube.

Then there was the story one year in the Scotsman newspaper which revealed that because of tight royal budgets, the Queen was to lease part of Holyrood Park in Edinburgh as a theme park - with wild boars for German tourists to shoot at and a waterfall for white water rafting down the side of Arthur's Seat....

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