Spring has sprung and Easter is just around the corner. But first, there is April Fools’ Day.
As students gear up to play pranks on their nearest and dearest, how many stop to consider the holiday’s origins?
A popular theory on how April Fools’ Day, also called All Fools’ Day, began.
According to www.snopes.com, the holiday began in France.
The story goes that, sometime in the late 1500s, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar, the Gregorian calendar, to replace the Julian calendar.
The Julian calendar celebrated the beginning of the new year around April 1, following the start of spring and the vernal equinox. The Gregorian calendar changed this to January 1.
France adopted the calendar the same year, but not everyone chose to follow it. Others didn’t hear about the change and continued to celebrate in spring.
The people who continued to celebrate the beginning of a new year in the spring were called April fools.
Followers of the Julian calendar would play tricks on friends who were ignorant of the change, dropping in on April 1 as if a New Year’s visit.
Even the media gets involved with the merriment of the holiday, often running fake stories.
Some famous instances include, “Alabama changes the value of Pi,” a BBC program about spaghetti trees, left-handed Burger King Whoppers, and ‘Taco Liberty Bell,’ where Taco Bell bought the Liberty Bell to help lower national debt.
The media isn’t fool-proof, either, as shown by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University.
Boskin spun a story of King Constantine and the jester Kugel. During Constantine’s reign, Boskin said, the king allowed a jester to take the throne for a single day, April 1, after being told by a group of jesters and fools that they could do a better job running the empire.
The jester’s role was to put things into perspective using humor. During King Kugel’s temporary reign, he passed a single edict: calling for absurdity on the day of his reign. The custom became an annual event.
Boskin told his story with such seriousness, managing a straight face throughout, that the story was believed and run in many papers. It took a couple weeks before the Associated Press realized they’d been duped.
As the pranks continue, maybe some clever individuals will spin tales of wonder of their own, outlining the ‘true’ origins of April Fools’ Day.