April Fool's Day
March 1, 2007 4:48am CST
Origin The origin of this custom has been much disputed, and many theories have been suggested, e.g. that it is a farcical commemoration of Christ being sent from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate, the crucifixion having taken place about the 1st of April. What seems certain is that it is in some way or other a relic of those once universal festivities held at the vernal equinox, which, beginning on old New Year's day, the 25th of March, ended on the 1st of April. This view gains support from the fact that the exact counterpart of April-fooling is found to have been an immemorial custom in India. The festival of the spring equinox is there termed the feast of Holi, the last day of which is the 31st of March, upon which the chief amusement is the befooling of people by sending them on fruitless errands. It has been plausibly suggested that Europe derived its April-fooling from the French . They were the first nation to adopt the reformed Gregorian calendar, Charles IX in 1564 decreeing that the year should begin with the 1st of January. Thus the New Year's gifts and visits of felicitation which had been the feature of the 1st of April became associated with the first day of January, and those who disliked or did not hear about the change were fair butts for those wits who amused themselves by sending mock presents and paying calls of pretended ceremony on the 1st of April. However, it is unlikely that this explanation of April Fool's Dayâ€™s origin is correct. Well before 1582 when King Charles IX of France brought in the new Gregorian calendar, French and Dutch references from respectively 1508 and 1539 describe April Fool's Day jokes and the custom of making them on the first of April. Though the 1st of April appears to have been anciently observed in Great Britain as a general festival, it was apparently not until the beginning of the 18th century that the making of April-fools was a common custom. In Scotland the custom was known as "hunting the gowk," i.e. the cuckoo, and April-fools were "April-gowks," the cuckoo being there, as it is in most lands, a term of contempt. In France the person befooled is known as poisson d'avril. This has been explained from the association of ideas arising from the fact that in April the sun quits the zodiacal sign of the fish. A far more natural explanation would seem to be that the April fish would be a young fish and therefore easily caught. The Dutch have their own reason. Back in 1572, the Netherlands were still ruled by the Spain's King Phillip II. There were roaming Dutch rebels who called themselves Geuzen, after the French "geux", meaning beggars. On April 1, 1572, they took a small coastal town called Den Briel. This event was also the start of the general civil rising against the Spanish in other cities in The Netherlands. General Alva of the Spanish army couldn't do much. Bril is the Dutch word for glasses, so on April 1, 1572, "Alva lost his glasses". Dutch people find this joke so hilarious they still commemorate April the first.