April Fish day is upon us, I mean April Fools day, which is also All Fools’ day.While it’s exact origins are uncertain, it might originally have been a celebration of the turning of the seasons, or the adoption of a new calendar. Ancient Romans and Hindus celebrated New Years Day on April 1 since it closely follows the vernal equinox.One explanation of April Fools’ day origins is that Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar in 1582 to replace the Julian Calendar, shifting New Years to January 1st from April 1. It seems that this change was not taken well and people refused to accept the new date, or, due to the slow dissemination of information, weren’t aware of the change.These “traditionalists” were made fun of and often sent on fools errands or were tricked into looking for things that didn’t exist, playing pranks, etc..
Gregorian Calendar wasn’t adopted by England until 1752 and yet April Fools Day was already well established. In France, poet Eloy d’Amerval circa 1508, referred to poisson d’Avril or April Fish day and still to this day French children go around pinning paper fish to their friends backs…Hilarious. In 1686 John Aubrey referred to the day as “Fooles holy day.”
The explanation I like came from a professor at Boston College who explained that the practice of April Fools began during the reign of Constantine when a group of court jesters told the emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Amused at the idea Constantine allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for a day and he immediately passed an edict calling for absurdity on April 1st.
The problem was it was pure fiction–and those that reported the story were victims of a grand April Fools joke. It should be noted however, that many cultures have traditions of foolishness around the start of April.The Roman festival of Hilaria, the Hindu Holi and the Jewish Purim. Perhaps the oldest tradition comes from Persia; called Sizdah Bedar it originates as far back as 536 BC and is the oldest prank-tradition alive in the world today. There just might be something funny about this time of year. Perhaps, after a long hard winter people finally find something to laugh about again.Except here in Southern California, we laugh all year ‘round…whoops there’s another earthquake.
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