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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Russia Series at RussianPod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Russian holidays and observances. I’m Jenny, and you're listening to Season 1 Lesson 17 - April Fools' Day.
On April 1, the whole world, including Russia, celebrates the Day of Laughter which in Russian is known as День смеха (Den' smekha), or as it's also called, April Fools’ Day, or День дурака (Den' duraka). In this lesson, we will be discussing what this celebration is like in Russia.
Now, before we go into more detail, we’ve got a question for you-
Do you know which is the most significant April 1 event for the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, countries?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later, so keep listening.
The Day of Laughter in Russia is an unofficial festival of humor, jokes, pranks, and good moods. On that day, it's customary to play tricks on your relatives and friends, and poke fun at coworkers. A good joke is supposed to amuse a person, not make them feel uncomfortable.
In Russia, this holiday was first celebrated during the reign of Peter I. Interestingly, on April 1, even Peter I himself was among those who had a joke played on them. In 1700, a troupe of German artists who were performing in Russia announced that they would give an astonishing performance on April 1 – one of the actors would get inside a bottle. Many people, including the emperor, gathered to watch this unusual performance. When the curtain rose, however, instead of the performance, the audience saw a poster with the text, “April First”, or in Russian “Первое апреля” (Pervaye aprelya).
Though there are a wide variety of pranks to be had on this day, the most popular joke of all is the joke, “Your back is all white.” which in Russian is У вас вся спина белая. The TV and the media try joking with their viewers and readers and sometime succeed. For example, the popular television channel, Channel One’s broadcast about a whale who swam into the Moscow River was discussed in forums and social networks long after April 1.
Incidentally, in Russia, people used to believe that April 1 was when the house spirit called домовой (damavoy) in Russian wakes up after its winter sleep. Having woken up from a long sleep, the house spirit is capricious, frolics around and roughhouses. In order to somehow butter him up, people joked, laughed, and played pranks on each other. They believed that by doing so, they could improve the house spirit’s mood and he would stop his petty mischief.
So, coming back to our quiz, do you know which is the most significant April 1 event for CIS countries?
The answer is Humorina, a festival of humor and satire held yearly in the city of Odessa, Ukraine. Humorina features clowns and comedians, competitions, carnival processions, and parades.
So listeners, how did you like this lesson? Did you learn something new?
Is there a holiday of humor and satire in your country?
Leave a comment at RussianPod101.com, and I’ll see you in the next lesson!