By Walter Scott
“Let us be thankful for fools. But for them, the rest of us could not succeed.” – Mark Twain
I researched three independent sources on the origin of April Fool’s Day and found three somewhat different ideas on it. However, all three tied it closely to the evolution of our calendar. The evolution of our calendar is one of the most amazing stories in history. Did you know we actually use two calendars in our society today? And that they are 10 days apart? Maybe I’ll tell that story later, but it’s very complex.
The history of April Fool’s Day is somewhat clouded. There never was a “first April Fool’s Day” that can be defined on the calendar. Some historians believe it started or rather evolved in several separate cultures at about the same time. The closest point in time that can identified as the beginning of this unusual tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new year was celebrated for eight days, starting on March 25th. The celebration culminated on April 1st. Some people believe it is also related to the vernal equinox, which, because of various calendar definitions, varied between March 21st and 25th. When the Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII 1582, it was adopted by catholic countries immediately. Other nations followed more slowly and the American colonies adopted it in the mid-eighteenth century. Now the year started on January 1st instead of April 1st.
Communications being what they were in those days when news traveled by foot, many people didn’t get the news for several years. Others, being a stubborn crowd, refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1st. These folks were labeled as “fools” by the general public, and over time April 1st evolved into April Fool’s Day. It thus developed into an international fun fest with different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of their friends and families.
For example, in Scotland, April Fool’s Day is actually celebrated for two days. The second day is devoted to pranks involving the posterior region of the body. It is called Taily Day. The origin of the “kick me” sign can be traced to this observance.
Mexico’s counterpart of April Fool’s Day is actually observed on December 28th. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the slaughter of the innocent children by King Herod. It eventually evolved into a lighter commemoration involving pranks and trickery.
April fool’s day is a “for-fun-only” observance. Nobody is expected to buy gifts or to take their “significant other” out to eat in a fancy restaurant. Nobody gets off work or school. However, one person, a judge, found a good use for this day….
In Florida, an atheist became incensed over the preparation for Easter and Passover holidays and decided to contact his lawyer about the discrimination inflicted on atheists by the constant celebrations afforded to Christians and Jews with all their holidays while the atheists had no holiday to celebrate. The case was brought before a wise judge, who after listening to the long, passionate presentation of his lawyer, promptly banged his gavel and declared, “Case dismissed!” The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling and said, “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? Surely the Christians have Christmas, Easter, and many other observances. And the Jews- why in addition to Passover, they have Yom Kipper and Hanukkah…and yet my client and all the other atheists have no such holiday!” The judge leaned forward in his chair and simply said, “Obviously your client is too confused to know about or to celebrate the atheists’ holiday!” The lawyer pompously said, “We are aware of no such holiday for atheists, just when might that be, your honor?” The judge said, “Well it comes every year on exactly the same date – April 1st!”
The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1, Psalm 53:1). We need more judges like him in our courts.