Have you ever wondered why certain days or traditions came to be? I do and in looking at my calendar I found “All Fool’s Day” listed. It’s not a true holiday in the sense that you get that day off from work or school, but it’s considered to be a lighthearted day for all that participate in the tomfoolery.
April Fool’s Day or All Fools’ Day is celebrated every year on the first day of April. It has been popular since the 19th century, and while it’s not a national holiday in any country, it is well know in Europe, Canada, Brazil and Australia. It is a day for people to play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. With the spread of media in the form of television, Internet and social media, these jokes and hoaxes go viral and are much talked about.
Traditionally if you were in Ireland you might find that you were entrusted with an important letter that was to be give to a named person. That person would then ask the victim to take the letter to someone else and so on. Upon opening the letter the contents were words on a page the simply said, “Send the fool further”.
While in Poland, serious activities are usually avoided. This includes political activities as well. For instance, the anti-Turkish alliance made by Leopold I that was signed on April 1, 1638, was backdated to the 31st of March. The day is celebrated with jokes and various hoaxes. The media is also involved at times to make the information sound much more plausible.
April Fool’s day in Norway, Denmark and Sweden is celebrated by all including the media. Most newspapers and media outlets will publish precisely a false story; however, the story is not a headline story.
The there is the April Fish Day. No I’m not kidding and I didn’t throw this one in to get my own April Fool’s Day joke into print. In Italy, Belgium and French-speaking area of Canada and Switzerland, the first day of April is often referred to as “April Fish”. The joke here is that a person will attempt to attach a paper fish to the back of the victim without being caught. If you look at an April Fools’ Day postcard from the late 19th to early 20th-century you would see that the fish feature is conspicuously displayed.
One of the most famous and elaborate practical joke was played by the BBC in 1957. It’s known as the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The film the was broadcast as a current affair series that told of Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti. The BBC was flooded with calls requesting the purchase of a spaghetti plant. They were forced by the requests to declare the film to be a hoax on the news the next day.
There is much controversy as to whether or not April Fools is a good or bad thing. The positive view say that it is good for your health to laugh and that should be the end result of these jokes and hoaxes. It is said that the laughter causes stress relief so it is therefore good for you. Various April Fools campaigns have been praised for their creativity, writing and innovation.
The negative view describes the hoaxes as creepy and manipulative. They are also described as nasty and rude, and based on deceit. Being “Punked” is often considered to be mean spirited and very nasty. Sometimes these jokes are taken seriously and there can be inauspicious effects such as confusion, conjecture, and misinformation. The negative view also believes that these jokes put people into dangerous situations and can have legal or commercial ramifications.
In 1983 Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University had an explanation of the origins of April Fool’s day. He explained that the practice of All Fools Day began during the reign of Constantine. A group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine was amused by this claim and he allowed his jester, named Kugel, to be king for a day. Kugel passed an edict that called for absurdity on that first day of April while he was king for the day. The custom became an annual event. The professor went on to explain that it was a very serious day during that time because fools were very wise men that gave advice and put things into perspective with a bit of humor.
Professor Boskin’s explanation as to the origin of the day was brought to the attention of the public and the Associated Press; who then printed the article in it’s newspapers. There was a catch to all this: Professor Boskin made the whole explanation up. It took several weeks for the AP to realize that they been the victims of an April Fool’s joke.
April Fools’ Day is observed and practiced around the western world. Let’s hope that you don’t get sent on a fools errand or sent to find something that doesn’t exist. Happy All Fools’ Day!