April Fool’s Day

By Patrick O’Neill, Staff Writer

As we all know, April Fool’s Day is today—across the world people will no doubt be playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes, creating April fools in their wake. We all know and love (sarcasm) April Fool’s Day, but not everyone knows the history of this day. So, here we go—into the magical world of the Middle Ages.

Supposedly the ancient association between April 1 and “fools” or “foolishness” comes from Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1392). All Fool’s Day as it is sometimes called was celebrated in the Medieval Era when jesters and jokesters came out of their huts and caused mayhem in the streets for a day, whooping and hollering and setting things ablaze. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but people these days often take things a little too seriously on occasion. Anyway, back on topic—April Fool’s Day was, and is often supposed to have been mentioned in The Canterbury Tales as “March 32” when Chaucer writes Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two or “March began with thirty days plus two more.” It could be guessed at that the foolishness of April 1 began with Chaucer then in The Nun’s Tale but who can really say for certain.

The Medieval tradition continues, generally across much of the world—and may also be related to a celebration of spring according to the Ancient Romans, Hindus and others when New Years’ was celebrated around this time of year. The tradition may also be related to Constantine—you know, that emperor of Eastern Rome who once legalized Christianity. Well, he had some rather feisty court jesters as the story goes and those jesters told Constantine that they could rule the Empire better than he. So Constantine, in all his cleverness, made a jester called Kugel king for a day. Kugel passed an edict that called for absurdity on that day and the tradition continued on April 1 for one thousand plus years.

Now that we have some of the history and conjecture surrounding April Fool’s Day, can we decide whether this “holiday” is worth our time? Well, we’ve all thought about pranking our friends and family on April Fool’s haven’t we? What’s the harm in a few jokes and tricks one day a year? But things can go wrong. I remember one story where a boy accidentally knocked his mother unconscious when she went through a door tricked with the ol’ bucket on the door prank—the bucket hit her in the head and knocked her out cold. April Fool’s pranks can go wrong—any prank can go wrong. And according to The Verge magazine, “everyone hates April Fool’s so why does it endure?” I can’t tell you. In theory there’s no harm no foul, but that’s only if we don’t let anything get out of hand. It all comes down to whether we let an ancient tradition of tomfoolery survive or whether we take away a holiday that’s existed for at least a thousand years. Here’s to a thousand more? Well, it’s up to you whether tradition survives.

So, happy April Fool’s Day and happy pranking!