THE HISTORY OF
APRIL FOOLS DAY
Ancient cultures, including the Romans and the Hindus, celebrated New Years Day on or around April 1.
April Fool’s Day, sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day is not really a holiday although it is celebrated in many countries. April Fools jokes and pranks are a central part of the celebration. It is believed to have been started in France during the 16th century, but it was the British who brought it to the United States.
The commonly accepted origin of the “holiday” involves the changes that were made to the calendar when the Julian calendar was changed to the Gregorian calendar. Under the Julian calendar, New Years day began on the vernal equinox of March 25th and ended on April 1st. Thus, New Years was associated with April 1st and that was associated with gifts and parties. But then in 1582, King Charles IX of France adopted the Gregorian calendar and accepted the beginning of the new year as January 1st.
Some people refused to accept the change, others simply forgot and still others, because of poor communication at that time, were not even aware of the change. To poke fun at those people, foolish gifts and invitations to nonexistent parties were given. The butt of such pranks were known in French as a “poisson d’avril” or “April fish.” The backward folks who refused to accept the change of the calendar were labeled as “fools.”
Although the Gregorian calendar was not adopted in Great Britain until 1752, the customs of April Fools were established much earlier.
For the Dutch, the celebration came about in a different way. In 1572, the Netherlands were ruled by Spain. Roaming the region, however were rebels who called themselves “Geuzen” after the French word “gueux”, meaning beggars. On April 1, 1572, these Geuzen seized the coastal town of Den Briel. (The word “briel” means glasses). It created such a stir that it led to a general civil uprising against the Spanish in other Dutch towns and cities in the Netherlands. The Spanish Army, under the command of General Alva, could not prevent the uprising. The Dutch laughed because the joke became, “Alva lost his glasses” (Gen. Alva lost Den Briel). So they commemorated what they saw as a hilarious joke on April 1.
There was another explanation that was provided in 1983 by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He stated that Constantine was approached by a group of court jesters and fools who said they could do a better job 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.
The problem with that explanation is that Boskin later admitted that he made the whole thing up. It was simply an April Fools’ joke which was accepted by the media and promulgated.
It was the British, and to some extent the Dutch, who introduced April Fools to the American colonies, although April Fools is celebrated throughout the world. The best thing about it is you don’t have to buy someone a gift and the Hallmark cards are truly optional. The worst thing is you don’t get off of work and the schools don’t close.
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ Such are corrupt; they do abominable deeds; there is not one who does good.” -- Psalms 14:1
"The first of April,
some do say,
Is set apart for
All Fools' Day.
But why the people
call it so,
Nor I, nor they
themselves do know.
But on this day
are people sent
On purpose for
Poor Robin's Almanac