|An illustration from the 1770s depicting pranksters tying a kite to old man's wig.|
April Fool's Day is certainly an odd holiday, albeit not an official one. Did you ever wonder how it got started?
Although April Fool’s Day is not a religious holiday, one theory as to its origin involves Pope Gregory XIII. In 1582 he decreed the adoption of the Gregorian calendar (which he named for himself,) moving New Year’s from the end of March to January 1st. Word of the change traveled so slowly that people in rural areas continued to celebrate New Year’s Day in the spring instead of on January 1st. These country bumpkins became known as April fools.
Others claim this theory is completely wrong because the French traditionally celebrated the beginning of the year on Easter, not April 1st.
Another theory is that April Fool’s Day grew out of ancient European spring festivals of renewal. Often at these festivals people disguised themselves and played pranks on each other.
Yet another theory, according to Joseph Boskin, professor emeritus of American humor at Boston University, claims April Fool’s Day began with Roman jesters during the reign of Constantine I in the third and fourth centuries A.D. When jesters petitioned Constantine to have one of them chosen as king for a day, he agreed and turned over his empire to his jester Kugel for the day. As king, Kugel declared April 1st would forever become a day of absurdity.
It turns out Professor Boskin was pulling a prank of his own when he told this story to the Associated Press back in 1983. The AP was not amused when they learned they’d been pranked.
Even though no one knows when or why April Fool’s Day began, it’s been going on for centuries in many countries around the world. So happy April Fool’s Day!