Laughter

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Laughter

Laughter may seem an inappropriate Easter symbol and custom to contemporary Christians. Yet up until the eighteenth century churches throughout central Europe rang with laughter on Easter Sunday. In order to evoke this mirth clergymen preached humorous sermons, told funny stories, or recited amusing poems. These jolly Ostermärlein, or Easter fables, contained moral teachings as well. The resulting laughter dispelled the somber mood which had prevailed throughout Lent and ushered in the joyful season of Easter. The hilarity also celebrated Christ's defeat of the devil and his victory over death.

The practice of eliciting Easter laughter began during the Middle Ages, reaching the height of its popularity between the fourteenth and the eighteenth centuries. The custom became so popular that printers issued several compilations of Easter fables during that era. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, however, religious reformers began to criticize the practice. Eventually their viewpoint prevailed and people began to view Easter fables and Easter laughter as inappropriate and irreverent. The custom of celebrating Easter with laughter finally died out sometime between the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Further Reading

Russ, Jennifer M. German Festivals and Customs. London, England: Oswald Wolff, 1982. Weiser, Francis X. The Easter Book. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1954.

Laughter

Democritus
(c. 460—c. 370 B.C.) the laughing philosopher. [Gk. Phil.: Jobes, 430]
hyena
rapacious scavenger, known for its maniacal laughter. [Zoology: Misc.]
laughing gas
(nitrous oxide) sweet-smelling, colorless gas; produces feeling of euphoria. [Medicine: Misc.]
Thalia
Muse of comedy [Gk. Myth.: Brewer Dictionary, 1071]
References in classic literature ?
No, no," we replied, with a knowing chuckle, "not we.
Sal, I'm thinking I could manage him,' says my mother, with a chuckle.
Yes, he looks happy, mother," he repeated, with a chuckle.
Brissenden panted and gasped painfully for a moment, then began to chuckle.
And here he was, he would chuckle to himself, with a real true cannibal for a slave.
Hope my fellows have not got into trouble up there," muttered Uncle Mac, adding with a satisfied chuckle, as a spark shone out, "No; there it goes
Smoke, who had descended to the deck and was now standing by my side, began to chuckle in a significant way.
From above came the peals of the old prince's voice, and the chuckle of Katavasov.
For a single moment Raffles looked venomous; then he shrugged and smiled, and the smile grew into a little cynical chuckle.
They appeared in Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, in Edvard Munch's Scream and Whistler's Mother, and as Dogs (and Chuckle Brothers) Playing Poker and The Chuckling Cavalier.
Barry and Paul - aka The Chuckle Brothers - take a trip down the yellow brick road in The Chuckles of Oz on stage on Saturday August 29.
Having the chuckle gene is good news because laughter is a health tonic that relaxes the body, boosts the immune system, releases feelgood endorphins and protects the heart.