April Fools’ Day, sometimes called All Fools’ Day, has earned a reputation as one of the funniest and funnest days of the year. Some people plan pranks and jokes for months leading up to the big day, and become all atingle with anticipation about springing something silly on the unsuspecting. There are books and websites dedicated to chronicling the best capers played down through the years, and to offering hints and suggestions of new tricks to the humor-impaired. People study and mull and ponder and consider (and many other words my Thesaurus doesn’t list) countless possibilities, alone and in groups, at offices and on Internet forums, all in an attempt to execute just the right joke on just the right fool or fools.
Of course, unlike the brilliant ones you’ll find on Skepchick, 98.9976% of those pranks turn out to be yawn-inspiring events that at worst elicit the dull stare of a dairy cow from the target and at best trigger a cursory fake laugh from those unfortunate enough to be party to the foolishness. And as tkingdoll pointed out in her post this morning, fake laughs do not a clown face make.
Something to think about.
Still, if you don’t have a fake laugh, I recommend you get yourself one. They’re invaluable. Heck, I use mine all the time; at work, in the company of my clergyman, and especially when Rebecca calls me being allÂ “funny”. Nothing like a good, fake, knee-slappin’ belly laugh.
But I digress.
The popularity of April Fool’s Day got me to thinking about its origins. And of course with libraries of reliable information and reams of erroneous bullshit merely a mouseclick away, I set to researching our favorite . . . holiday?. . .
That’s actually where I started. Is April Fool’s Day considered a real holiday? It’s listed on many calendars, same as Christmas and Yom Kippur. But does it have the same cachet as the holiday observed with fasting and prayer on the 10th day of Tishri in accordance with the rites described in Leviticus 16?
Granted, they both seem to be testing our gullibility. But is April Fool’s Day a holiday?
Strangely enough, there was not a lot of information about this topic on the web. I did, however, manage to dig up some photocopies of old parchments and letters at my library from some medieval European magistrates. These were men who, in their time, celebrated New Year’s Day on or around April 1. The reason was, it closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) There was reasonable method to their madness.
At the time, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year. And according to the parchments I dug up, it was declared widely that the vernal equinox and the new year would in fact both be celebrated as holidays.
Everyone got the day off from work. Their medieval relatives came in from out of town with their screaming, smelly little medieval kids. They drank too much. Spent too much money. And generally made themselves and everyone around them miserable. The two dates were twin bill holidays. They were the Christmas and New Year’s Day of their time!
But, April 1st wasn’t known as All Fool’s Day then.
It wasn’t until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian Calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar that things really started to funny up. First, Pope Greg’s calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. This is hilarious, because it’s a date he apparently pulled right out of his ass, since there was no natural event to coincide with it, like the vernal equinox observed by the old school Europeans. And don’t we just have to laugh at a man who wears a dressÂ in the service ofÂ an invisible beingÂ and whoÂ wields that kind of power? It’s too scary not to.
But to Greg’s delight, the good citizens of France, eschewing a date for the new year that coincided with an observable event in nature for the whimsy of a man in a funny hat and way too much jewelry, adopted the new, reformed calendar and began celebrating New Year’s Day on Jan. 1.
Soon other countries followed suit, because the Pope’s organization was purported to be very astute. Somehow it had garnered a reputation for knowing what it was talking about,Â and it had far-reaching influence, and the reformed calendar found more and more support.
According to noted historians like Benedict of Verona, Thibault Ranulf the French scribe, and Toly Turstin and his apprentice Steve, however, many people either refused to recognize the new date as the beginning of the new year, or they simply did not know about it (they apparently filtered all mass emails from the Pope into the Junk bin), and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1.
Well, as often happens when not everyone thinks exactly like those people with robes and invisible friends, there was a little bit of tension. The new calendar supporters began making fun of the traditionalists, sending them on “fool’s errands” or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe.
And so it was that when the traditionalists were celebrating their New Year’s Day on April 1st, the god-fearing people â€”Â who hadÂ modeled themselves after the passive and tolerant Jesus Christ â€”Â workedÂ tirelessly to make fools of them and mercilessly ridiculed them.
It’s not clear who was the bigger fool in this historic scenario, but all seemed right with the world.
Unfortunately, I don’t find much amusement in that explanation of the origin of All Fool’s Day. It’s just too . . . sad a tale to give me much of a chuckle. I mean, Christians ridiculing people because they didn’t acceptÂ a very arbitrarily setÂ new calendarÂ just doesn’t seemÂ like a lot of funÂ to me.
There is another possible explanation, however,Â that I like better. It’s one that I can’t go into fully right now, but it’s something the world needs to know. I don’t want to reveal much, but I can tell you that it involves an ancient mummy curse, space aliens, and lots and lots of robots.
So stay tuned. For on the first day of April of some year, all will be revealed unto you. And you will be amazed.