April fool’s day is not a national holiday and its origin dates back to bible days when the history of this day was recorded. It is a day celebrated with silliness and making people look stupid with practical jokes played upon them and where others were are asked to carry out an impractical or imaginary task.
Usually on April fool’s day around the world, children and adults play pranks on others such as telling their friend their shoelaces are undone and when the other child looks down to glance at their shoes, the prankster will call out “April Fool.” The media have also published articles on April fool’s day as jokes and several million readers are the target of the joke to find out later that it’s not true.
A biblical theory pointing out the source of April fool’s day stems from the days of Noah when on April 1 he sent out the dove to find dry land before waters subsided. Another biblical theory commemorates April 1 as the day when Jesus was sent from Pontius Pilate to Herod and back again. The term of sending a man from Pilate to Herod is an old expression of sending someone on a fool’s errand.
Pranks and mischief date back to ancient Roman times, and it was around the time of the March equinox when the Romans and Celts celebrated a festival of practical joking. In the months of March and September, the equinox occurs, twice a year. It is on this day, when the sun shines directly on the equator, and the length of the day and night is almost identical. An ancient Roman myth told the story of the god Pluto who abducted Proserpina (the Goddess of grain and the harvest) to the underworld Proserpina’s mother only heard the echo of her voice while searching for her daughter. It was a fruitless search that ended in vain and inspired the tradition of a fool’s errand.
Another theory why April 1 is called April fool’s Day is the change and connection from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar had an average 365 days divided into 12 months and a leap year added to the month of February which made the calendar display 365.25 days on average, and it was the extra.25 day that caused some problems.
Several parts of Europe celebrated New Year on April 2, this was the day friends, and family would exchange gifts. under the Julian calendar. During 1582, the Gregorian calendar which is today’s internationally accepted calendar, known as the Western or Christian calendar and named after Pope Gregory XIII who introduced this to the world. New Year’s Day was transferred to January 1, with the changeover of the calendars.
Often people during that time would forget about the change in calendars and would continue to exchange their gifts and warm wishes on the old day. Friends and family would mock the forgetful ones who continued to make New Year’s Day visits on the previous date April 1. Hence the forgetful ones became victims of various jokes.
A British folklore linked April 1 to fool’s day when according to legend during the 13th century, the King who was known to declare any road where he placed his foot public property. The people of Gotham in Nottinghamshire upon hearing the King would travel to their part of the town did not want to lose their main road and refused him entry. The king sent soldiers to the town when he heard about the people’s intentions and when the soldiers arrived they found the whole town engaging in stupid activities such as drowning fish. The king upon hearing of the silliness, declared the town to foolish to warrant punishment.
Renewal festivals are celebrated by most cultures around the world such as the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The festivities would include the wearing of disguises, playing pranks on family and friends. As the winter months, end and the return of spring the people reaffirm the stability of society and the social order is symbolically challenged, and then restored.
April fool’s Day is characterized with a renewal festival, a day when mischievous and tomfoolery behavior are acceptable. A time when normal behavior is not allowed and according to tradition, the pranks and jokes must stop at 12 o’clock noon on April 1.
By Laura Oneale