The Origination of April Fool’s Day

The Origination of April Fool’s Day

Nixon for President April Fools
The 1 April 1992 broadcast of National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation revealed that Richard Nixon, in a surprise move, was running for President again. His new campaign slogan was, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” Accompanying this announcement were audio clips of Nixon delivering his candidacy speech. Listeners responded viscerally to the announcement, flooding the show with calls expressing shock and outrage. Only during the second half of the show did the host John Hockenberry reveal that the announcement was a practical joke. Nixon’s voice was impersonated by comedian Rich Little.

 April 1st – “April Fool’s Day,” is a day of trickery, fun, lightheartedness and pranks.  From switching sugar to salt or telling an outrageous lie, the calling out of “April Fool!” has always been fun to most people. This custom is celebrated throughout the western world.  Where did this custom originate?

For years, the best answer from historians and researchers was that it was related to the changing of the seasons and the calendar.  Romans, Hindus and most of Europe had always celebrated the “new year” in April, following the vernal equinox in March and considered it a day of fun and celebration. Many cultures had holidays in April:

  • Romans had Hilaria Festival
  • Hindus had Holi
  • Jews had Purim

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar named for himself, the Gregorian calendar, which we use today, that has New Year’s Day on January 1st.  This replaced the older Julian calendar that celebrated the beginning of the year in April. France and many other countries accepted this reformed calendar, but some, either ignorant of the fact or totally denying it, still used the Julian calendar.

It became fun to poke fun at those people who were traditionalist and not accepting of the new calendar.  On April 1st, people played tricks on them and sent them on fool’s errands. Sounds like a very plausible explanation for the start of April Fools Day, doesn’t it?  There are two major problems:

The Gregorian calendar was not adopted by England until 1752, but the practice of April Fool’s Day in the country was established long before that. There is absolutely no proof.
Here is the true story of the origin of April fool’s Day, researched and documented by Joseph Boskin, a Boston University Professor:

During the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the court jesters were called fools and very popular with the citizens because they loved to be amused and laugh.  On April 1st one year, a court jester named Kugel told Constantine that he thought that he could be a better ruler than he was.  Amused by this, Constantine granted Kugel the opportunity to show him by making him King for the day.

Kugel immediately called for absurdity to rule, and the event was so much fun for all, that it became an annual event.  Thus, April’s fool’s Day was born.