Monday, March 31, 2008

List *31 - about April Fool's Day

I've gotten through the whole month of March, with posting a list every day for the month for the NaBloPoMo Challenge. It's been quite a time, trying to think of a new list every day, but it has stimulated my creativity. Right now, I'm in the drainage state of my cold, which is keeping me up. So since it is the 31st, I'll list some facts about April Fool's Day.

1. I had always believed that the day started because Europe had changed its calendar - the old calendar, which did not have leap years had gone so wrong that the days no longer matched up with the seasons. So in the 1500's, when the calendar was reset, people were still celebrating the beginning of the year on April 1st. Anyone who celebrated New Year's on 1 April was therefore called an April Fool.

According to the article on April's Fools Day on National Geographic this is not quite true. France and many European countries had been celebrating New Year's on 1 January for long before that. This was the legally accepted start of the year.

2. Now, anthropologists believe that April Fool's Day, being in the spring, was a holiday of renewal, so people would wear costumes and play pranks on each other.

3. In 1983, one scholar played his own prank by announcing that the holiday grew out of a practice in the court of Constantine (3 - 4 century AD) of allowing the court jesters to be king for a day. King Kugel was the King for a day, and declared the day to be a day of absurdity. The scholar's friend just happened to have a craving for Kugel that day, so this was the true origin of the story.

4. According to Boese, of the Museum of Hoaxes, "Good humorists are basically secular shamans—they both heckle society on one hand and heal it on the other." He also said that it's also a day for evening up social inequalities - street urchins used to play pranks on London gentlemen in the 1800's.

5. Famous Hoaxes can be found at this link. Both this site and the Wikipedia article have a great list of great pranks played on April Fool's day. Might give someone some ideas about something.

6. Wikipedia entry on April Fool's Day has a variety of stories that may be true or not. In France the person fooled is known as poisson d'avril (April fish) because people would stick fish on the back of people's coats because the sun crosses the zodiac at the time of equinox in the constellation of Pices, the fish. This has developed into a child's game of attaching paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting friends.

About 20 years ago, I was doing some work in the cooperative pottery studio I belonged to. We were all listening to the local public radio station when there was an announcement that the US had invaded Canada. One of the other potters came from Canada, and she got really upset and was ready to call home when we reminded her what day it was.

Anyone else have interesting April Fool's stories?

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