April Fools’ Day has been a long standing tradition in western cultures for generations. Think back to the BBC report of the Swiss spaghetti tree harvest in 1957, or even the unusual explosions which caused the Madison Wisconsin Statehouse collapse in 1933.
Even in 1857 many people were tricked into visiting the Tower of London on April Fools’ Day to watch the Annual Ceremony of Washing the Lions.
But where did this tradition begin? How far back can we trace this?
The earliest mention of April Fools’ Day in Great Britain was in 1686 by writer John Aubrey, who referred to the day as the “Fooles holy day”.
And throughout the Middle Ages, many Europeans celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25th, with a week-long celebration concluding on April 1st. By the mid-16th century, many Europeans had adopted January 1st as the start of the New Year (though not officially until the signing of the Edict of Roussillon in 1564), and many of those still celebrating New Year’s on April 1st were mocked as fools during this time.
It is thought that April Fools’ can be traced back to even the Romans and their celebration of Hilaria, a festival to honor the goddess Cybele (whom they borrowed from the Greeks). This celebration took place on March 25th to celebrate the vernal equinox and the first days of the year which had more hours of daylight than of night.
It is likely though, that April first was originally marked as the day for April Fools’ by Geoffrey Chaucer, in the late 14th century’s The Canterbury Tales. In one particular tale, the protagonist is fooled by a fox on March 32nd – which was adapted to be April 1st. Chaucer originally wrote that this trick occurred 32 days after March’s end, but was altered due to copying errors at the time.
It’s fitting that the date for April Fools’ Day was likely cemented due to a mistake and misinterpretation.
At netlogx HUMOR is one of our operating principles. It is important to be able to laugh, particularly at the end of a challenging day.
So whatever prank you have planned for this year, remember that Max Easton once said that “It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humor”.