Wednesday, April 1, 2015

All Fools Day aka April Fools Day

Is there anyone out there who has not played an April Fools joke on someone, or hasn’t had such a joke played on them?  The pranks, jokes and games associated with the day start at an early age and go on long after that.  But why write about that on a history blog?  Because, for lack of a better reason, the history of the day.  Why do we celebrate a day devoted to an international day of pranks?

What follows is what I have discovered via the internet, that wondrous bit of technology that brings forth answers on most anything you ask for, and within minutes (or should I say seconds?).  

Theory no. 1:  The Council of Trent in 1563 made the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.  France made the change in 1564.  Once again, not everyone caught up with the times and continued to celebrate the wrong day for the start of the new year.  The gullible, those who had not yet received news of the date change, often had paper fish stuck on their backs.  These fish were called “poisson d’avail” or “April Fish” and symbolizes a young, easily caught fish and someone who is gullible.  In France, patisseries, chocolateries and bakeries make all sorts of fish shaped treats to enjoy on this day.  

Theory no. 2:  In 1582, Pope Gregory III (you know, the man the Gregorian calendar is named after) decided that new year should start on January 1st now March 31.  The change was published throughout the Church, but many people remained unaware of the change and continued to celebrate New Years Day on April 1st.  According to Ginger Smoak, a medieval historian at the University of Utah in a Huffington Post article, those people were made fun of and called fools.  Hence, April Fools.

Theory no. 3:  Not every country adopted the Gregorian calendar at the same time; for example England did not adopt in until 1752 but had already established the tradition of celebrating April Fools Day.  According to Wikipedia, in the United Kingdom and those countries whose traditions are derived from the UK, all joking ceases at midday.  Anyone playing April Fools jokes after 12:00 pm is the “April fool” themselves. 

Theory no. 4:  The Romans celebrated a festival named Hilaria on March 25 rejoicing in the resurrection of Attis (in Phrygian religion, vegetation god).  The Hindu calendar celebrates Holi  (king Prahad), and the Jewish calendar has Purim (the salvation of the Jews from the wicked Haman).
Theory No. 5:  Joseph Boskin, History Professor at Boston University, said the practice began during the reign of Constantine.  Supposedly a group of court jesters told Constantine they could do a better job running the empire.  Constantine, amused, allowed Krugel, a jester, to be king for a day.  Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and it became an annual event.  

Boskin’s explanation was picked up and printed in an Associated Press article in1983.  It was only later that Associated Press realized they had been made an April Fool themselves.  Boskin himself had made up the story as nothing more than an April Fools joke.

Theory no. 6:  April 1st is just a time when normally winter ends and spring begins and people feel the need for fun and lighthearted celebration, at least for one day.

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