Friday, April 1, 2016

The History Behind April Fool's Day

And finally, one last post for April Fool's Day: a history of why it became the "holiday", if you will, for pranks and jokes and buffoonery of all kinds. I published this originally a year ago, but since not much has changed in relation to April Fool's Day, I figured it was worth publishing again! Why not? 

Okay, so, yes, it's April Fool's Day. I originally wanted to write a review for the late Bryce Courtney's book of the same title, which despite the title, is actually not funny at all: it is about how his son died from AIDS. 

However, I got very backed up with some of the books that I have been reading, while simultaneously finding myself on a cold streak with reading. I would read quite a bit for several days, then I would find myself barely reading on others. It has been a weirdly inconsistent month, and not just in terms of reading. 

Failing that, then, I wanted to give a bit of history on this holiday. You see, I think it's safe to assume that we all know people that really take to this holiday, and come up with zany ideas of pranks to pull, while the rest of us roll our eyes, or perhaps even grit our teeth.

There was one coworker of mine that was like this. He is a very decent man, but was also known for being quite a bit eccentric. It seemed that April Fool's Day was his big holiday. To say that he loved it would not do it justice. He would talk about it months in advance (no, I'm not kidding), and would talk about his experiences pulling pranks (usually the same ones) on different people, year after year). 

One of his favorite pranks consisted of attaching a five dollar bill to a fishing line (again, no, I'm not kidding). Naturally, the idea was that people would get excited, and reach down for it. Then, of course, he would yank it away.

Well, I was warned about this well in advance, and wanted to do something to retaliate, so to speak. So, I sat there and pretended not to notice. He tried wiggling the bill, and again, i pretended that nothing was amiss or unusual, as if I were completely absorbed in my work.

He tried again, this time closer. But again, the same result. Perhaps I pretended to look away, although it's been so long, so who knows?

So, of course, he tried again. This time, I was sure that I would get it. But instead, I looked his way, and he quickly hid himself. 

He took a chance at a quick glance and, observing him from the corner of my eye (and having left the bill untouched and apparently unnoticed), I once again looked in his direction, this time with a frown, as if "something" was really attracting my attention. Once again, he quickly his from site.

When I was quite sure that he was going to stay out of view until I could complete what I had in mind, I sprung into action, quickly grabbing the bill, trying hard not to pull on the line or anything. Then, I attached a badly soiled diaper from my child, and pulled the line.

No, actually, I'm just kidding.

I attached a knife, with an attached note threatening his life if he fu..I mean, if he messed with me again.

Actually, I'm just kidding. I just took the bill, and let him pull the line with nothing on it anymore. A few minutes later, he asked for his bill back, and I gave it to him. 

Anticlimactic, right?

He was not the only friend that I have known who pulled consistently pranks on this day, almost always with a big, goofy smile on his face to show how happy he was with himself. Some of the tricks can be funny. But again, some kind of make you roll your eyes. Or punch the comedian in the face. Either way is an appropriate reaction.

But here is something that I heard somewhere that is less funny when you really think about it: the origins of the holiday.

You see, the traditional start of the year in olden days was the first day of spring - April 1st. But when this was changed for religious reasons (why else?), not everyone got on board. After all, spring is the season of new life, and what better time to start a new year? Really, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it, right?

So, yes, some people resisted the change. Those people were mocked, and pranks were pulled on them to show what fools there were. This tradition has carried on and, hence, April Fool's Day!

But was this the true history? I wanted to get to the bottom of it, and write out a whole thing. But as I write this, I find myself quite lacking in energy (no, that is not an April Fool's joke), and so I just kept the articles in place as they were, to allow you, the reader, unfettered access to the theories on the history of the holiday, and make you own determinations about the validity, or lack thereof.  

Lazy on my end? Yes. But I will say this: quite a few of these are quite informative and interesting, and I'd be willing to bet that you will find them so, as well. 

Before we begin, let me just pause to add something here: a lot of the here seems uncertain. There does not appear to be one definitive truth behind the holiday, although there are certainly similarities between some of the origins that I read. That said, if you heard some other history behind it, please feel free to share it. I'd love to hear it, and as always, would love to hear from you!

So, let's get started.

Here's an article called "April Fool's Day: The History of the Holiday" from Mike Krumboltz of The Sideshow, from March 30, 2012 (That's why he is warning you that "Sunday" is April Fool's Day):

April Fool's Day: The History of the Holiday

Consider yourself warned. Sunday is April Fools' Day, a day when you are encouraged to pull pranks on loved ones, co-workers, casual acquaintances, and even that one guy at the bus stop. It's an odd tradition, but how did it get started? What's the history of April Fools' Day, anyway?

Nobody is completely sure about the origin of this, the silliest of holidays. However the urban legend experts at say that most experts  give credit to Pope Gregory XIII, who, in the 1500s, gave the world the Gregorian calendar. [Related: Is April Fools' Day dying?]

In 1562, the Gregorian calendar moved the first day of the year from April 1 to January 1. Word did eventually get around, but some people were a bit slow to hear the news. These folks continued celebrating the new year on April 1, unaware that they were now three months behind the times. These "April fools" were tricked by those in the know. The tradition eventually made its way to the USA.

And it's still going strong. Over the past week, Web searches on "april fools day jokes" and "april fools day pranks" have more than doubled, and related lookups for "easy april fools day pranks" and "april fools day jokes for work" also spiked. Bottom line: Keep your guard up, especially if somebody offers you a word search puzzle. Lookups for "impossible april fools day word searches" are up 200%. [Related: 5 hilarious fake scientific breakthroughs]

But really, there is no way to be certain you'll escape trickery. Because on April 1, even corporations are out to trick you. In 1998, Burger King tricked its customers by releasing "the left-handed Whopper." In 1957, the BBC reported Swiss farmers were harvesting spaghetti from trees. And in 1996, Taco Bell took out ads in major newspapers announcing that the company had purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. Shudder.

Here is a history, according to Wikepedia:

April Fools' Day is celebrated in many countries on April 1 every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools' Day, April 1 is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other.

In Italy, France and Belgium, children and adults traditionally tack paper fishes on each other's back as a trick and shout "April fish!" in their local languages (pesce d'aprile!, poisson d'avril! and aprilvis! in Italian, French and Flemish, respectively). Such fish feature prominently on many French late 19th to early 20th century April Fools' Day postcards.

The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392). Many writers suggest that the restoration of January 1 by Pope Gregory XIII as New Year's Day of the Gregorian Calendar in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, sometimes questioned for earlier references[1]


Precursors of April Fools' Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held March 25,[2] and the Medieval Feast of Fools, held December 28,[3] still a day on which pranks are played in Spanish-speaking countries.

In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392), the "Nun's Priest's Tale" is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two.[4] Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon.[5] Thus, the passage originally meant 32 days after April, i.e. May 2,[6] the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean "March 32", i.e. April 1.[7] In Chaucer's tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "April fish"), a possible reference to the holiday.[8] In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1.[6] In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as "Fooles holy day", the first British reference.[6] On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed".[6]

In the Middle Ages, up until the late 18th century, New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation) in most European towns.[9] In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on April 1.[2][3] Many writers suggest that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates.[2] The use of January 1 as New Year's Day was common in France by the mid-16th century,[6] and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

A study in the 1950s, by folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, found that in the UK and those countries whose traditions derived from there, the joking ceased at midday.[10] But this practice appears to have lapsed in more recent years

Here is another history, with the link below:

The history of April Fool's Day or All Fool's Day is uncertain, but the current thinking is that it began around 1582 in France with the reform of the calendar under Charles IX. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved from March 25 - April 1 (new year's week) to January 1.

Communication traveled slowly in those days and some people were only informed of the change several years later. Still others, who were more rebellious refused to acknowledge the change and continued to celebrate on the last day of the former celebration, April 1. These people were labeled "fools" by the general populace, were subject to ridicule and sent on "fool errands," sent invitations to nonexistent parties and had other practical jokes played upon them. The butts of these pranks became known as a "poisson d'avril" or "April fish" because a young naive fish is easily caught. In addition, one common practice was to hook a paper fish on the back of someone as a joke.

This harassment evolved over time and a custom of prank-playing continue on the first day of April. This tradition eventually spread elsewhere like to Britain and Scotland in the 18th century and was introduced to the American colonies by the English and the French. Because of this spread to other countries, April Fool's Day has taken on an international flavor with each country celebrating the holiday in its own way.

In Scotland, for instance, April Fool's Day is devoted to spoofs involving the buttocks and as such is called Taily Day. The butts of these jokes are known as April 'Gowk', another name for cuckoo bird. The origins of the "Kick Me" sign can be traced back to the Scottish observance.

In England, jokes are played only in the morning. Fools are called 'gobs' or 'gobby' and the victim of a joke is called a 'noodle.' It was considered back luck to play a practical joke on someone after noon.

In Rome, the holiday is known as Festival of Hilaria, celebrating the resurrection of the god Attis, is on March 25 and is also referred to as "Roman Laughing Day."

In Portugal, April Fool's Day falls on the Sunday and Monday before lent. In this celebration, many people throw flour at their friends.

The Huli Festival is celebrated on March 31 in India. People play jokes on one another and smear colors on one another celebrating the arrival of Spring.

So, no matter where you happen to be in the world on April 1, don't be surprised if April fools fall playfully upon you.

And finally, here's the history, according to

April Fools' Day, sometimes called All Fools' Day, is one of the most light-hearted days of the year. Its origins are uncertain. Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar.

New Year's Day Moves

Ancient cultures, including those of the Romans and Hindus, celebrated New Year's Day on or around April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian Calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year's Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. That year, France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year's day to Jan. 1. According to a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April 1. Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on "fool's errands" or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe.

Problems With This Explanation

There are at least two difficulties with this explanation. The first is that it doesn't fully account for the spread of April Fools' Day to other European countries. The Gregorian calendar was not adopted by England until 1752, for example, but April Fools' Day was already well established there by that point. The second is that we have no direct historical evidence for this explanation, only conjecture, and that conjecture appears to have been made more recently.

Constantine and Kugel

Another explanation of the origins of April Fools' Day was provided by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event.
"In a way," explained Prof. Boskin, "it was a very serious day. In those times fools were really wise men. It was the role of jesters to put things in perspective with humor."
This explanation was brought to the public's attention in an Associated Press article printed by many newspapers in 1983. There was only one catch: Boskin made the whole thing up. It took a couple of weeks for the AP to realize that they'd been victims of an April Fools' joke themselves.

Spring Fever

It is worth noting that many different cultures have had days of foolishness around the start of April, give or take a couple of weeks. The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25, rejoicing in the resurrection of Attis. The Hindu calendar has Holi, and the Jewish calendar has Purim. Perhaps there's something about the time of year, with its turn from winter to spring, that lends itself to lighthearted celebrations.

Observances Around the World

April Fools' Day is observed throughout the Western world. Practices include sending someone on a "fool's errand," looking for things that don't exist; playing pranks; and trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.
The French call April 1 Poisson d'Avril, or "April Fish." French children sometimes tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, crying "Poisson d'Avril" when the prank is discovered.

Yes, I know that I already published a link to one of these (the first one) somewhere on this site previously, and not all that long ago. But there are apparently more of them now, and so I thought it would be appropriate, in the spirit of April Fool's Day, to keep things lighthearted, and show a sense of humor, even about topics that most people would never joke about.

So, here is the link to what events from before World War I to immediately after World War II would look like if it had been a news feed on Facebook:

And here is one in a similar manner, only if World War II was an RTS:

This was a pretty good one that I did not get to see all of yet: the entire history of the world done in similar fashion:

And finally, a lighthearted link to real history: historical facts that seem, at least on the surface, just too bizarre to be real. Only, they are real! Pretty interesting stuff, and here's the link below:

"51 Historical Facts That Sound Like Huge Lies But Are Actually True" by Mike Spohr of Buzzfeed Staff, March 25, 2014:

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