Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's Day or Bust...a day of no fooling...

April 1, 2010

April Fool’s Day or Bust

The plethora of stories about the origin of April Fool’s Day appear seemingly, in and of themselves, as if they are April Fool’s Day jokes. There are so many different versions about how it all began, it is clear that this tradition inspired folks to work hard at purposely convoluting the facts surrounding this practice.

One story has this day of tricks has emanating from the fact that the calendar widely accepted all over Europe in the 1500s began with April 1st which coincided with all of that vernal equinoxy, spring, sap is rising stuff. Along about 1564 King Charles IX changed it so that the New Year began with January 1st and evidently the kingdom was none too pleased, retaliating with jokes and gifts.

Another version has it that in 1582 Pope Gregory adopted his calendar, the Gregorian calendar, confusing and irritating everyone in the process with the same results as King Charlie. (It seems it was all the rage to adopt your very own calendar, all the cool ruling people were doing it.)

When the New Year was recognized on January 1, those who continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1 were called April Fools. And, thus, another fine tradition begins for no sane reason, nor will it end for a logical one.

Some scholars who study these things say that all of the above is bogus because the New Year was actually associated with the celebration of Easter, so January was never the right time to celebrate the beginning time of a New Year and, wha-la, we’re back into another part of ecumenical history, rather than some simple wrangling due to dates and whims of the ruling classes.

Associated with wild goose chases and the general revelry that is intrinsic with celebrating spring the Romans and Celts, not to be left out, are reported as folks looking for a good time right around spring thaw time.

There were, in fact, real April Fools, the guys with the jester hats whose entire job was to make hilarity ensue. Usually these folks were on contract with kingdoms, but there are loads of stories circulating out there on the information highway as to their presence in other communities and venues.

As an aside, physical humor of the slapstick nature still made folks laugh back in the day and not just at each other as they donned those fluffy pantaloons. Even though the hilarity attached to the joke may have lost a bit in translation, it was a hoot when someone hooked a paper fish onto someone else’s back. Now those rabblerousers really knew how to have a good time on the cheap, never even harming real animals in the process. These days we use stickynotes that say, “Kick me!” but “same diff.”

Jokes, tomfoolery, urban legends, the plausible and the implausible abound when you’re talking about April Fool’s Day. For me it’s a poignant day because my sweet, beloved, joyous grandmother was born on this day and so our celebrations were not filled with jokes, but rather with chocolate cakes, her favorite African violets and anything lavender which was her color. I miss her, today and always, so it puts a completely different spin on this day. I am melancholy.

Having said that, I’m not unaware of the practical joke nature of the custom, so I did giggle when I launched a Google search which, in point of fact, turned into a “Topeka” search. If you haven’t seen this, it’s Google’s tribute to Topeka, Kansas for saying that if Google relocates to Topeka they would rename their city, Google. Google, as a joke, renamed their search engine Topeka, just for today, doncha know. It was a funny AND harmless practical.

Nevertheless, as this day winds down I can’t help but breathe that proverbial sigh of relief because I’m always afraid it’ll be my year to be pranked and I’ll be the last one to know. No fooling!

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