Change Your Mind: April Foolish Folly


John Huber, Reporter

Spring is now in full bloom and it may be getting warmer. Even in this serious world of ours, there is always one day of the year where we can cut loose, have fun and play harmless. That day is April Fool’s Day. How did this day of tomfoolery begin, you ask?  Let’s look back at the history of this funny holiday.

The earliest traces of the holiday go as far back as Ancient Rome when a festival known as Hilaria was celebrated at the end of March by followers of the Cybele Cult. It involved people dressing in disguises and mocking fellow citizens, even magistrates. It was believed to be inspired by the Egyptian legend of Isis, Osiris and Seth but there are also those who say it is linked to the Vernal Equinox as Mother Nature fools everyone with unpredictable weather.

The modern version of April Fool’s Day goes back to 1582 when France transitioned from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. On the Julian calendar, New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1 while those who followed the Gregorian calendar celebrated it three months earlier.

People who hadn’t adjusted to the change were known as “April Fools” and became the butt of all jokes during that time. Pranks included sticking a paper fish on their backs regarded as a “Poisson d’arvil” or an April Fish symbolizing an easily caught fish and a gullible person.

This spread toward Britain during the 18th century and, in Scotland, became a two-day event, kicking off with the “hunting of the gowk” (a word for a cuckoo bird and a symbol for fool) and involved people being sent on phony errands. This led to part two of the event with Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

Today, we see people going to great lengths to celebrate the holiday with elaborate hoaxes. The silliness has spread with newspapers, radio and even TV stations getting in on the fun.

Some infamous April Fool’s Day hoaxes include when the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) tricked viewers into believing Swiss farmers were harvesting noodles from spaghetti trees in 1957. In 1987, Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton wrote about a fictitious pitcher known as Sidd Finch who could throw a baseball a whopping 168 miles per hour. National Public Radio announced Nixon running for president again in 1992, only it turned out that Nixon was an actor. Even Google gets in on the fun with an annual joke that includes telepathic search to playing Pac-Man on the streets.

Allow Me to Change Your Mind

This holiday isn’t fully celebrated as one would expect since some people think we should be serious all the time and look at this day as a ploy to get companies to play jokes we know are nothing other than marketing schemes (well it sort of is, but that’s not the point I am trying to make). Some think the day is just for kids and as we you grow older, April 1 is more like a normal day akin to the other 364 or 365 days of the year.

I saw a commercial for a movie that comes out on the day and pointed out the April Fool’s Day connection before my mom told me it was just a kid’s thing. However, when a joke is performed that bamboozles a victim, one shouldn’t be mad. Sure it has zero substance, but this should be a day where we all play the fool and, when the jig is up, laugh and say, “You got me.” It is mindboggling that, when there is much worrying about the state of the world itself, one forgets the simple things in life. Laughing at a joke is one of those things.

For those of you who came here after seeing the Hamiltonian edition published, I hope we gave you a laugh.