How many times have you fallen for the old April Fool’s tricks like, “Ohmagosh, you have an earring missing!” Then the person laughs like crazy as you go into a panic searching the ground for that expensive earring your husband or boyfriend gave you only to find you have both earrings safely attached to your ears?
Or, maybe you’re the jokester who prepares days in advance of April first thinking up gags and tricks to play on your friends. I was one of those. I tried everything from “your shoe laces are untied,” to, “Are those your panties around your ankles?” Silly stuff, but fun. You had to get your gags in early before others got there first and the surprise was gone.
So, as I was contemplating my gags for this April Fool day, I wondered, how did the whole April Fool’s Day tricks get started in the first place? Well, I went on an investigation to find out the answer. To my surprise, I found no certain answers to the history of April Fool, but I did find some possibilities.
According to David Johnson and Shmuel Ross, it could have been related to the change of seasons. Ever heard the term “spring fever”? Others believe it may have been attributed to a change in the calendar. Here’s one I didn’t know for certain: the beginning of the New Year used to be celebrated on April first in some cultures. Who knew? The New Year was celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox which we know as the first day of spring on March 21. In Medieval times, most of Europe celebrated the Feast of Annunciation on March 25. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (to be called the Gregorian Calendar, of course) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar would make January 1 as the New Year. I guess we’re still holding on to that one. So naturally, those that accepted the new calendar liked to give the ones still following the old calendar a hard time by sending them on a “fool’s errand.”
Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University, has another explanation for the history of April Fool’s Day. It goes like this: At the time of Constantine’s reign, a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that he could do a better job of running his empire. Constantine thought it was funny and decided to make the court jester, Krugel, king for a day. During his one day as king, Krugel declared April first as a day for absurdity. Professor Boskin said that, in those days, jesters were actually very wise men. It was the roll of jesters to put things in perspective through humor. I can understand that concept. How many times have we seen people make drama out of nothing and then the Late Night comics (our form of court jester) bring us back down to Earth with a funny comment on the matter and make us laugh at the absurdity of it all? Prof. Boskin’s theory was printed by the Associated Press in 1983. But here’s the good part: He made the whole thing up and sent the AP on a “Fool’s Errand.” Loved this explanation the best.
Here’s one last theory:
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.
I wonder if this is where the phrase, “There’s something fishy going on here,” comes from.
Have a wonderful and very fun day celebrating April Fool’s Day, y’all. I’m off to torment my friends and family with my tricks and gags.
Sarah J. McNeal, Author
Updated Bio Sarah
is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel,
paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER nurse who lives
in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and
Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of
music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and
harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca
Vickery, Victory Tales Press, Prairie Rose Publications and Painted Pony Books,
and Fire Star Press, imprints of Prairie Rose Publications. She welcomes you to
her website and social media: Sarah