Monday, March 29, 2010

April Fools Day...WHAT IS IT?

We associate April Fool's day with partaking in practical jokes and generally having a bit of fun.  However, WHY do we do such silly things on this particular day?

Several reasons are probably contributing factors to such silliness and fun. It is seen by some folk as a celebration of the turn of the seasons...getting out of our system all of the winter's woes and enjoying the coming of Spring with all the fresh new plants, colors and sunshine. On the other hand, it may also have something to do some history of the adoption of a new calendar system.

Let me explain...

Originally, New Year's Day in most early cultures was near April 1st, closely related to the vernal equinox. The Romans and the Hindus celebrated New Year's Day at this time. Medieval Europe celebrated March 25th, the Feast of Anunciation, as the beginning of the new year.

Here is where the bugaboo comes in though. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar, now known as the Gregorian Calendar, to replace the old Julian Calendar because it was generally more accurate. The Gregorian Calendar had New Year's Day as January 1st. That very year, France adopted the Gregorian Calendar as the official calendar that shifted New Years to January 1st.

The problem arised when many folk chose to refuse the new date for New Years or apparently didn't know of the new date and, therefore, continued to celebrate New Years on April 1st instead of January 1st.

Those enlightened folk "in the know" made fun of the the either traditionalists or those who weren't aware of the change. After all, news back in those days traveled a tad more slowly than it does in our modern day. These folks were subject to a bit of ridicule as a result. Apparently, the practice spread throughout Europe until everyone knew of the change. Since that probably took many years, the practice became a habit and was celebrated as a time of practical jokes, fun and otherwise trying to trick someone into believing something that wasn't true.

Now this fun little story may not be completely true since this calendar was initially introduced in only France at first. It didn't actually reach England until 1752! Funny thing was that the April Fool's Day was already a well-established occurence in England BEFORE the change in the calendar.

Another possibility of the April Fool's origin is that near April, the Romans had a festival called Hilaria on March 25th that was a joyful time of the resurrection of Attis, originally the Phrygian god of vegetation; I guess that sort've makes sense since it is Spring time and new plants are shooting forth out of the ground.

April Fools in this day and age has no real practical purpose other than to have a bit of fun with it.

So, enjoy the day!