29 March 2013

April's Fools

by R.T. Lawton

Charlie the 9th
Going back at least as far as the Romans, people have designated a certain day to celebrate fools and foolishness. The Romans called their celebration Hilaria. It's a short step to say this is where the term hilarious came from. Somebody must've had a funny thing happen to them on the way to the Forum and right away, it was party time. Back then, nobody could party like them Romans.

Other festivals celebrating fools can be found in several other countries and cultures, most of which go back for centuries and are obscure as to how or why they started. Not all of these celebrations fall on the exact same day, but it appears that most of humans liked to have a time when seriousness could be set aside and let foolishness reign. Many of these similar celebrations fell about the end of March when the seasons were changing from drab winter weather to the new life of Spring. In other words, people were fed up with cabin fever, they just wanted to go outside and let it all hang out, go a little crazy for a while. Maybe play some humorous tricks on their neighbor, so everyone else could have a few laughs at whoever ended up looking like the Fool.

Greg the 13th
Coincidentally, the new life of Spring was also the start of the calendar new year for most western countries many centuries ago. However, in 1564, after touring his kingdom, King Charles IX of France discovered that different cities under his control celebrated the New Year at different times, anywhere from January 1 to April 1. Preferring a common New Year date for all Frenchmen, 14-year old Charlie added an article to his Edit of Roussillon, which then moved the official start date of the New Year to January 1st. That took care of the Kingdom of France, yet still left their day of fools set at April 1.

Eighteen years later, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian Calendar which was actually invented by an Italian, but Greg liked the new calendar so much that he appended his own name to it. This new calendar also set the New Year date to the 1st of January. Of course Charlie and the French were already there. Not wishing to be seen as out of favor with the church, several European countries quickly signed on for the date change, thus April 1 continued its foolishness by itself.

There was one small problem for the masses. Due to a lack of social networking media at the time, it's possible that Charlie and Greg, being the fun loving guys they were, had played the largest April Fool's joke the Western World had seen. Since few people could read and there were no televisions, radios, e-mail systems or telephones with which to communicate the date change to the unwashed masses, naturally the educated elite got the word first. In this manner, the "smart ones" knew which day to celebrate the New Year, while the "fools" were left still welcoming in the New Year on April Fool's Day, three months behind the times. Chuck and Greg sure did like their laughs. If the Romans had still been around, they'd probably have gotten a kick out of them two guys.

For some more modern day Top 100 April Fool's jokes or hoaxes, go to: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/aprilfool/


  1. I think the biggest April Fool's joke was setting New Year's Day on January 1st, unlinked to anything meteorological, agricultural, or zodiacal, and - in certain latitudes - the last weather in the world in which one should go running around to parties in minimal clothing. Oh, that Greg!

  2. I'm so gullible and focused on other things, I always fall for those April pranks. O sigh, o sigh.

  3. Worse, I think the evil ones are chortling that April 15 will soon arrive.

  4. R.T., this blog sent me in search of a hoax or something in that vein for my column Monday. I was surprised at what I found to write about.

  5. R.T. I tried to read this post four times, but got interrupted the first three and had to leave.

    Fourth time's a charm, though! Made it through at around 11:00 pm my time (AZ), after Saturday's post was already up. LOL

    Thanks for the great read!



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