Easter Monday

Day Sixteen

Easter Monday is a more important holiday than Easter Sunday here in Italy.  Why?  I haven’t got a clue.  Maybe somebody out there knows and can enlighten me.  Anyway, Easter Monday this year falls on the most important kid holiday of the year: April Fools Day.  I always loved the idea of April Fools Day.  On this day you get full license to say or do something completely outrageous and silly, and then avoid any consequences just by saying, “April Fool!”

By the same token, you’ve got to be on your guard because someone else can make an April Fool out of you.  I always hated being caught off-guard by an April Fool joke.  I liked to come up with something from school: “Hey, Mom!  I need to take an extra cookie in my lunch tomorrow.  It’s Bring a Cookie for the Teacher Day.”  Really, I just wanted to see if I could get an extra cookie out of her.  She never fell for it.

My family was very competitive.  We played for glory to the winner and humiliation to the loser.  To fool a friend was fun, but to fool a family member was something to celebrate.  To be taken-in by my little brother was the ultimate humiliation.

Being older, I had the advantage of experience, but once my brother figured out my Achilles Heel, I was forever doomed to be the butt of his April Fool pranks.  That weakness: spiders.  Sometime around age 9 he learned that all he had to do was scream “SPIDER!!!” and I would jump up, screaming.  A couple of times he backed it up with a plastic spider saved from last Halloween.

No April Fool joke of mine ever even approached the success of the spider prank.  Mom even got in on it, pinning a fake spider to her shirt, then pretending to try and brush it off right over me.  I nearly overturned the table trying to get away.  Daddy would focus his eyes on my shoulder and simply whisper, “Don’t move.”  Of course that sent me screaming from the room.

I Skyped with Mom today, and while we were talking my brother called.  I wish I could say that I’m no longer afraid of spiders, but that’s just not true.  But from the safe distance of a few thousand miles, the spider prank has lost all of its power.  Neither of them even mentioned April Fools Day.  In some aspects growing up stinks, but at least there are no more fake spiders to deal with.

Confetti, Silly String, Masks, and Streamers Everywhere!

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Milan has just had its Carnivale celebration.  Carnivale is the last hurrah before the carnal deprivation of Lent, and should technically be celebrated on Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday.

In Italy, however, Carnivale is celebrated for two weeks.  Unlike the nearly naked and drunken celebrations of Carnivale in Brazil or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnivale here is mostly for children.  Confetti, Silly String in aerosol cans, streamers and costumes can be found in most every market and shop during the month of February.  And a two week celebration means that a child can celebrate Carnivale with her grandparents in Parma one weekend and celebrate at home in Milan the next weekend.

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One February I was in the small town of Iseo, Italy by the like-named lake.  I was tired, so I sat on a bench near a place where the sidewalk narrowed.  There was a boy about 3-4 years old in costume.  His dad was also tired so they shared my bench.  The boy had a bag of confetti and every time he saw another child approaching he pulled out a fistful and—POW!—showered the other kid with confetti.  The giggling that followed was positively contagious.  Then he would load up again and wait for his next victim.  We passed an hour or so this way.

February of 2010 I was in Venice.  I would never have deliberately gone to Venice during Carnivale because I don’t like being in crowds, but since I was there and it would probably be my only chance to do so, I went to St. Mark’s Square and watched the celebration.  Venice’s Carnivale is quite a spectacle, with some of the most opulent and elaborate costumes I have ever seen.  It reminded me of the costume party scene in Hitchcock’s “It Takes a Thief.”  I was told that some people save up all year for their Carnivale costumes, and I can believe it.  But it was a also an event for children.  At one point, I found myself near a family with two children.  The little boy kept tossing confetti on his little sister, who was too little to understand or appreciate the fun.  Finally he got frustrated with her and turned and threw confetti on me.  “Whee!”  I giggled every time he did it, which made him keep doing it until his mother stopped him.  I think she must have thought I was just being kind, but really I was having fun.

The very next day was when God told me about my ministry to Europe.  I like to think that God will use me and the rest of the missionaries in Europe to bring revival, and then we’ll celebrate in a party that never has to end.

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Yesterday celebrations ended here in Milan—just when I had gotten used to riding the subway with fairy princesses and Power Rangers!  All that’s left is Carnivale’s detritus: confetti and spent streamers all over the ground, and silly string going gooey all over the walls.  The city is really good about cleaning up after Carnivale, so there will be hardly a trace of its silly fun.  I don’t normally mind the winter, but February really needs Carnivale’s fun.  I think God knew that!