“The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools’ Day.
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.”
[Poor Robin’s Almanac (1790)]
Spring is here. It is a time for beautiful flowers to sprout and spread their fragrance. It is a time for the whole world to rejoice. By far, April has been my favourite month because it makes me feel so full of everything. It is another fact that sometimes people like me do go overboard in our reactions in this month of springing emotion!
How often we have been fooled in life! How often we have become such a fool for someone we love! How often we have lived in a fool’s paradise! The word ‘fool’ is so very ordinary to us that we often lose sight of the frequency of this word in everyday conversations and situations. The dictionary calls the word ‘fool’ a person who acts unwisely, a person who is considered deficient in common sense and a person who gets duped easily. A fool was also known as a jester or a clown in historical times. To wear a fool’s cap was to wear a cap worn by jesters. To go on a fool’s errand was to do a silly and profitless task. The list is endless but have you ever wondered as to how this inconspicuous word came to have a special day of its own? Yes! I am referring to the April Fools Day that is faithfully observed on the first of April every year.
Unlike any other special day being observed, April Fools Day tends to leave most of us with the feeling of plain embarrassment! And that is how it is actually supposed to be! I remember teasing and getting fooled on this day in school for so many years. Nothing close to the teasing we get to see now a days but a sense of feeling like a joker all the same. The recollection of my friends screaming,
can still make me squirm! The pranks played on April 1st vary from generation to generation but people especially children still have fun teasing one another.
April Fools Day is in fact an excuse to play pranks without getting punished! I am sure all of us have memories when we have had a whale of a time fooling one another in school and at home. With such a license to be naughty we all seem to have a special fondness for this day all over the world. But how did this particular day actually begin? Many events in history from varied cultures have influenced the origin of this day.
It is believed that sometime in history, when the world in the West was beginning to celebrate New Year on January 1st instead of the earlier March 25th, then this day was said to have taken form. Many countries were still unaware of the fact that the start of the New Year had been changed and continued celebrating New Year like before. The people from these countries began to be called ‘fools’ the world over. These people were made fun of and a lot of jokes and pranks were played on them. This fooling, over time, was made into a custom on the first day of April. Origins of April Fools’ Day still being unclear, several other theories have come up about the celebration of this day. The Encyclopedia of Religion and the Encyclopedia Britannica states that the timing of this day could be related to the arrival of spring. This, it says because spring is the time when nature tends to fool mankind with the inconsistent weather. Quite reasonable I must say although the start of spring itself cannot be fixed exactly on a specific date. Others think that April Fools Day could have something to do with ‘Hilaria’, a Roman celebration of the culmination of winter. No wonder today, ‘Hilaria’ is also known as the Roman Laughing Day! It was also a day to celebrate the resurrection of the God Attis.
Most of the pranks played on April Fools Day are practical jokes. From sending people on silly errands to saying the ever simple, “your shoe lace is untied!” the day is made for the fool and the person fooling. Some superstitions have it that the fooling period ceases at noon and anybody fooling after that will bring bad luck. It is also said that if people do not take the pranks in good humour then they bring bad luck upon themselves!
Another information that is amusing to know is the coincidental occurrence of the Indian festival of Holi sometime near April Fools Day! On this festival of colour people play all the fool they can, with mischief aplenty. Nobody on Holi Day can be found free of colour and laughter! By plain coincidence Indians too seem to have a place in history as far this festival is concerned. The ‘Maha Moorkh Sammelan’ or Conclave of Colossal Fools in Chandigarh on April 1st is also organized every year when poets from all over the country gather for this function in Chandigarh.
So, the next time when it is April Fools Day we can play the fool without feeling much of a fool ourselves not knowing why we are celebrating April Fools Day! With a world besotted with observing and celebrating days without reason it gives some solace to know why we are observing a certain day.
Happy April Fools Day!