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April Fool’s Day Origin Is a Mystery

April Fools Day Shark

Now that we’ve survived the April Fool’s Day it’s hard to not wonder where the day of pranks and hoaxes came from. However the day’s origins are a mystery, suitable for such a maddening holiday.

Its puzzle is that in the 18th century there are detailed references to it but it was already established as an holiday with references to it as early as 15th century. There are some theories about it.

Maybe it was because Pope Gregory XIII moved the New Years from April 1 to January 1 making people who celebrated the new year in the spring look silly. In 1582 the pope ordered the Gregorian Calendar to replace the Julian Calendar created by the Roman emperor Julius Caesar. However the French had already beat the Pope to it 18 years earlier when King Charles IX proposed the country’s widely-used January 1 as the new year be official which was later made into law by the French Parliament a year later in 1564.

Regardless the theory held that those who didn’t adopt the new calendar either out of stubbornness or obliviousness were sent on fool’s errands as a teasing from those who did adopt the calendar.

But it is only a legend because it does not explain the existence of April Fool’s Day in other European countries nor did it adequately fit into the timeline when England officially adopted the calendar change in 1752, long after April Fool’s Day was a known holiday.

Perhaps it’s because in the Julian calendar the new year began after the pagan celebrations of spring. A notable example is ancient Rome’s Hilaria. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the holiday is a day of merriment and rejoicing from the resurrection of Attis, the son and husband of the mother of gods, Cybele. Some of the activities in Hilaria are similar to April Fool’s silliness.

Also the new year also began after Attis’ resurrection like the Christian old tradition of beginning the new year after Easter when Jesus Christ rose from his tomb. Hence the old tradition of celebrating the new year with spring that the French had rejected with Europe later following suit.

Perhaps April Fools’ Day history is better known for pranks like this one. The Associated Press reported in 1983 that the true origin of April Fool’s Day was at last discovered.

Joseph Boskin, a Boston University professor, told the press that he discovered the celebration began during the fourth century when Emperor Constantine thought it’d be fun to give his throne for the day to a court jester named Kugel. As the ruler of that day Kugel decreed only the ridiculous people were allowed in the kingdom for that day. Thus the tradition was born.

Several papers printed the story but it was many weeks later the professor confessed that none of the story was true. He intended the story to be a joke but the AP reporter believed him. Boskin said that Kugel is actually a name for a Jewish casserole, and that he doesn’t know how April Fool’s Day really began.

Despite its shadowy origins in the western world April Fool’s Day’s history is likely better known for outrageous pranks and widely believed hoaxes.


Callie Daniels is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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