Origin of April Fools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Today’s is April Fool’s Day. Have you ever wondered how such a day began?

As I pondered what to write about this week, the thought occurred to me to write some preposterous story and cleverly end with &uot;April Fool.&uot;

That didn’t seem all that appealing after four or five stabs at a preposterous topic, so I resulted into digging into how this wonderful little day came to be.

The problem is, there seems to be no real evidence to anything anyone has written about the origin of April Fool’s Day.

Several references go back to the 1500s when the Gregorian calendar was changed, changing the New Year from the long celebrated April 1 to January 1.

One can only imagine that in a time of limited communications the change must have slowly crept across the land, leaving many to continue celebrating the New Year on the old date.

This is the most noted reason for the origin of the so-called holiday.

For years, people celebrated the New Year on April 1, but as the change took time to evolve across the land, the January 1 date was not celebrated by everyone.

Some, either because they did not believe the change or because they chose not to make the change themselves, or even more probable that they did not know of the change for years to come, continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1.

As the change became more popular, those that had continued the old celebration were noted as &uot;fools&uot; and as time progressed, the more knowledgeable – as they discovered someone still celebrating the old holiday – would send these poor people on &uot;wild goose&uot; chases.

Again, tracing back the origin doesn’t really answer many questions as to how the day became so popular that even today, it remains among one of the more noted days of the year.

Possibly, the playful teasing of someone who was still celebrating the old New Year on April 1 led to more pranks than teasing over the course of time.

It’s noted in several references I found, that some of the misinformed people celebrating the April 1 New Year were simply called &uot;April Fools,&uot; for their lack of changing with the times.

In one reference, the origin of the April Fool date came about during the reign of King Charles IX, and the similarities are nearly identical claiming the tradition of jokes and pranks fell on the change in the Gregorian calendar and the fact some people apparently just didn’t get the memo.

This tradition is said to have traveled from England to Scotland several hundred years later and eventually sailed to America in the 1700s.

In one internet search, it was noted the number one media-generated April Fool’s joke took place in the late 1950s on BBC’s Panorama (a popular television news program).

As the story is told, over a video clip of women harvesting spaghetti from trees, a straight-faced reporter began the broadcast that spring was arriving earlier than normal, prompting the Switzerland spaghetti harvest to also be early.

As the reporter continued to real in the audience, they spoke of the oddly uniformed length of the spaghetti as a result of dedicated cultivation over the past year.

The reporter even reported of the &uot;ravenous&uot; spaghetti weevil and how the varmint had wreaked havoc in years past with other potentially great harvest seasons, but that the critter had been conquered, leaving this particular crop to be the best ever.

Viewers of the program were said to have jammed the switchboard of the BBC following the broadcast, many wanting to know where they could go to actually witness the harvest firsthand and others wanting to know where they could buy spaghetti plants to begin their own fortune in next year’s harvest.

It was even noted that the producer of the Panorama program, for an extra chuckle, told callers many successful British enthusiasts had unbelievable results from planting a small tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce.

Still the viewers continued to bring serious inquiries into the switchboard.

Makes you wonder if there are still people in England trying to get into the spaghetti fields.

At home, the best April Fool’s joke that was played on me came from my dad. I remember so well, being 9 years old at the time, still in bed on a school day morning.

I wasn’t the easiest to get to rise and shine first thing in the morning, and it usually took some pretty stern convincing it was time to get up and get ready for the day.

I had the routine down pat, my dad walked by my door and told me to get up.

I would be awake enough to hear him, but accustomed enough to know the next move in this little chess match was to hear my mom repeat the same words, then my mom to repeat the same words again and again, until my dad would come back down the hall and rattle his belt buckle. That usually got my attention pretty well, bringing at least my feet to the floor.

On occasion, I’ve even been known to move my feet in a way to imitate the sound of me walking, while I lay back, eyes shut trying to catch one more wink.

However, on this particular day, my dad walked by with my room and gave me the first wake up call.

The next thing I remember was hearing the bells on our back door jingle – a sign he was going outside.

I recalled thinking how strange that was, but figured he must be leaving earlier than usual for work.

At about the same time that thought ran through my head and I snuggled closer to my pillow, I heard the bells again and my dad hollering, &uot;Jay, Jay get up, get up! Spot has had puppies and they’re running all over the back yard.&uot; Spot was my pet dog.

I sprang to the floor, took no more than two leaps down the hall and to the kitchen. My dad was standing at the back door, peering out the window.

I ran up beside him, &uot;Let me see, let me see.&uot; He moved over so I could get a good look into the back yard.

I cannot begin to tell you the disappointment of looking out and seeing an empty back yard with no little Spots running around.

Just as I began to question why he had tricked me so badly, it also occurred to me that Spot was a male dog.

Facing both the embarrassment of being 9 years old and thinking a boy dog could have puppies and being startled by my father’s actions, I wanted to find a hole and jump inside because it was at that very moment I realized April Fool’s had come to the Jenkins household.

I think Mark Twain may have said it best in describing April Fool’s Day, saying, &uot;The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.&uot;

Have a wonderful day, and be cautious. You just never know who’s out to get you.