April Fools’ Day

Photo by Ben White

April Fools Day is not one of my favorite days.

I’ve said it before on my blog, but it bears repeating: no one likes to be made a fool.

No one.

My children have accused me of not having a sense of humor. “Mom, we’re not hurting anyone.”

I beg to differ.

Being humiliated isn’t a feeling I cherish. To be found a fool is something i avoid, but why? I’ve thought about this a lot because, to be honest, I think I have a great sense of humor – but for me, it comes down to if the humor comes at someone’s expense or not.

I think my on-going process of understanding and working through my perfectionism has a lot to do with my seeming lack of humor. It’s not funny to be made fun of, to be the proverbial ‘butt’ of the joke. When everyone’s laughing at your expense, it isn’t funny. It isn’t fun.

Which got me thinking…

Why is this ridiculous holiday even on the calendar? Why do we care to note it at all? Are we so unkind as to continue a tradition that keeps a distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’? Is it the patriarchy keeping us at odds with one another for a reason?

Maybe; but I did a little digging.

As it turns out, April Fools’ Day has been around for hundreds of years – at least since the 16th century when France signed the Edict of Roussillon, as directed by the Council of Trent in 1564. This Edict was a directive to align the calendar for the whole of France from the Julian Calendar, as a hold out from the old Roman Empire, to the Gregorian Calendar, the calendar we recognize today in most of the world.

Of course, in the 16th century, France. like today, has many outlying villages. The Edict issued by Charles IX in the summer of 1564 did more than just change the calendar year from the Julian {pagan} calendar to the Gregorian {Christian} calendar. The Edict addresses, in large part, the consolidation of power of religion to the Catholic Church. As with Spain, with whom the French share a border, the idea of unifying religion in Europe was appealing. It was also appealing to consider pressing England back to Catholicism after their break with the Holy Roman Catholic Church by King Henry VIII. His daughter, Queen Elizabeth, was not interested in moving England back under the influence of the Catholic Church…

But, where were we?

Ah, yes! April Fools’ Day. As the story goes, people who knew about the calendar change in accordance with Edict of Roussillon, made fun of those who did not know. These Gregorian Calendar followers celebrated the New Year on January 1, not April 1 as the Julian Calendar followers. It’s likely the people who had already converted to the Gregorian Calendar made fun of those people who were not aware France had changed the first day of the year, calling them, “Poisson d’avril”. In English, ‘April Fish’. Literally saying, these people not in the know are gullible – like a fish! People would then attach fish to the unsuspecting backs of  others to decree how gullible they were to follow the old calendar. One blogger documented even today, as French children were taping paper fish to one anothers backs, chocolatiers are creating fish to sell in their store fronts.

But does the sleuthing stop there? Au contraire!

If you go back a little further, Geoffrey Chaucer recounted in The Canterbury Tales as a potential source of pranking in the ‘Nun’s Priest Tale‘ In it, the vain cock is tricked by the sly fox on the 32nd day of March. Since there is no 32nd day of March, which is, admittedly, part of the prank, that day translates to April 1st. The Canterbury Tales were written in 14th Century England {Some say most Medieval scholars believe this to be a copying error, while others think it is a playful way with words}.

Want to go back further?

There are roots to festivals and holidays celebrated even further in history. It roughly corresponds to the Spring Equinox and is the source of a variety of religious spring holidays. The Ancient Romans celebrated Cybele ,during the spring equinox, during Hilaria on March 25, one of their many days of joy and celebration. In the Hindu religion, and across India, the joy is still celebrated in the Holi Festival which becomes a beautiful festival of color. The Jewish celebrate Purim; a minor holiday which celebrates in the Book of Esther her saving her Jewish people from death {Interestingly, many suffragists see not only Esther, but even more so her husbands previous wife, Vashti, as the mothers of the feminist movement.}.

Which brings us to this: It’s spring! It’s a beautiful, joyful occasion. We in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the release of winters’ grasp as the days get longer, the sun gets warmer, and the spring flowers begin to bloom.

I think I’ll choose to see April Fools’ Day as a day of fun because it’s spring! Even better, reaching back to ancient times to celebrate the women of history – Cybele, mother of the Gods, and Vashti, executed for refusing her husbands’ demands for erotic dancing during his festival.

Wow! Now that’s a history I can enjoy ❤


How are you celebrating April Fools’ Day?

2 thoughts on “April Fools’ Day

  1. Thanks for the history, that’s interesting! And I’m with you: never liked pranks. Much better to think of April 1 as a day of *fun* than a day of making fun of someone else so you can laugh at them.

    Liked by 1 person

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