It’s A Hoax

Wondering who tricked us into celebrating April Fool’s Day? Oasis Living decodes this mystery for you

Aditi Dasgupta

The first day of April, after the tedious thirty one day of March, is marked as a day of tomfoolery and light hearted humour. April 1 or April Fool’s Day is universally celebrated for decades. People often try to fool others, but get tricked themselves in the bargain. Haven’t we all tried pranks on all fool’s day? Yet many of us fail to know its origin. The etymology of the word ‘April’ is derived from the Latin word Aprilis that refers to openness. It not only commemorates the transition from winter to spring, but also marks the reversal from wisdom to the lightheartedness of the season.

There are several versions behind the origin of this day. The most interesting theory is from Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, completed circa 1392. Post this, it was only in the 17th century that writers mentioned this day in their works. However, the most popular account originates in the late 16th century when the Julian calendar, which marked April 1 as the New Year was followed. This was then changed by Pope Gregory, who replaced it with the Gregorian calendar, which recognized January 1 as the beginning of the year. While this was widely accepted, some people either refused to accept it or were ignorant of the change. Taking advantage of this, others tricked them into believing April to be New Year and sent them on Fool’s errands. This trend gradually spread and came to be known as April Fool’s Day. There seems to be a logical reasoning behind the existence of the day, but it has no historical backing.

Another interesting theory equates this day with the change in the weather from winter to spring. During this time of the year, various cultures have events revolving around the concept of foolishness — the Hindus have Holi and the Romans have Hilaria. Many cultures relate April Fool’s Day to the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The philosophy behind this is that nature fools people with unpredictable weather during this time of the year.

Yet another version is from Joseph Boskin, a professor at the Boston University who stated that April Fool’s Day began during the reign of Constantine. It is said that the court jesters told the Roman Emperor that they could run the empire better than him. So, the king allowed Kugel, a court jester to rule the empire for a day. During his day long tenure as the king, Kugel passed a decree called ‘absurdity,’ which went on to become an annual event. Credibility of this story is feeble and is believed to have been conjured by Joseph himself.

While the origin of this day has no concrete basis, it is looked forward to unanimously around the globe for some high spirited, joyful and frolicsome moments with friends, families and even strangers!


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