The maple syrup's full of ants.
A mouse is creeping on the shelf.
Is that a spider on your back?
I ate the whole pie by myself.
The kitchen sink just overflowed.
A flash flood washed away the school.
I threw your blanket in the trash.
I never lie----I---
~Myra Cohn Livingston
Unlike most "nonfoolish" holidays, the start of April Fool's Day, or All Fool's Day, is not totally clear. There really wasn't a "first April Fool's Day" that can be pinpointed on the calendar. Some believe it sort of evolved simultaneously in several cultures at the same time, from celebrations involving the first day of spring.
The custom of playing practical jokes on friends was part of the celebrations in ancient Rome on March 25 (Hilaria) and in India on March 31 (Huli). The timing seems related to the vernal equinox and the coming of spring-a time when nature fools us with sudden changes between showers and sunshine.
The closest point in time that can be identified as the beginning of this tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new year was celebrated for eight days, beginning on March 25. The celebration culminated on April 1. With the reform of the calendar under Charles IX, the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved to January 1.
However, communications being what they were in the days when news traveled by foot, many people did not receive the news for several years. Others, the more obstinate crowd, refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1.
These backward folk were labeled as "fools" by the general populace. They were subject to some ridicule, and were often sent on "fools errands" or were made the butt of other practical jokes.
This harassment evolved, over time, into a tradition of prank-playing on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to England and Scotland in the eighteenth century. It was later introduced to the American colonies of both the English and French.
April Fool's Day thus developed into an international fun fest, so to speak, with different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of their friends and families.
In France, the victim of a joke is called an "April Fish" (poisson d'avril). In England, tricks can be played only in the morning. If a trick is played on you, you are a "noodle".
In Portugal, April Fool's is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent. The traditional trick there is to throw flour at your friends.
In Scotland, for example, 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. In Scotland, you are called an "April gowk", which is another name for a cuckoo bird.
Practical jokes are a common practice on April Fool's Day. Sometimes, elaborate practical jokes are played on friends or relatives that last the entire day. The news media even gets involved.
For instance, a British short film once shown on April Fool's Day was a fairly detailed documentary about "spaghetti farmers" and how they harvest their crop from the spaghetti trees.
The first of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fool's Day;
But why the people call it so
Not I, nor they themselves, do know,
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.
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