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.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002

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]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
All of which made me titter when it was announced the Coventry kitman was celebrating a landmark birthday, when he had not one but two potentially terminally dirty strips to wash.
Brings to mind Victorian ladies and gentlemen visiting asylums to observe the inmates for scientific reasons when it was really to have a titter. visiting rve or s y Can you imagine Paddy, right, asking the same questions of middle-class men and women emerging from the golf club?
IT FEELS as though Liverpool's retro music hall comic, Terry Titter - blessed with the fashion sense of Harry Hill and the naivety of Alan Partridge - has been around since we were joined to the continent by ice.
Should we need to spell out the level of innocence any further, nary a titter would be made while asking for "an E please Bob," whereas requests for a "P" never failed to cause unabated hilarity.
_: Panasonic's Toughbooks have always been ultra-rugged warhorses, but at least the competition could titter about how bulky they are.
ARE there many that did not titter at mighty moneybags Real Madrid's exit from the Champions League?
The baffled man returns to his table while fellow drinkers titter in the background.
I've just watched back-to-back reruns of My Family and if I so much a utter another titter my sides might well burst.
you know I'd be no good at that gay stuff," he whines, uncomfortable in his own skin--and clued-in audiences titter. Of course, it's precisely because Ledger has been so good at that "gay stuff' that Candy is seeing a North American release.
Rather than cower into immediate silence and impeccable behaviour, they titter. These are often grown-ups, mind you.
He added: 'The Gay Gordons can raise a titter if the audience are not familiar with Scottish dancing and in order to avoid a cheap joke the name is switched.'
But I'm still hoping Paul and Mary will dream up a signature challenge that will allow us a titter at Dave's expense.