By Joyce LEE
April Fool’s Day, although not a national holiday, is a day when people from around the world forget about their heavy burdens and instead choose to relieve their stress and have fun by pulling pranks and telling silly jokes. Despite its popularity, many are unaware of the history behind April Fools’ Day. This is partly due to the looming mysteries that surround the historical facts.
One famous theory for the origin of April Fools’ Day is an ancient story, veracious or false, of France’s change of calendar. Supposedly in the 16th century, France desired to match its calendar to that of the Romans and thus New Year was in January instead of the beginning of spring in early April. Since olden times did not have the luxury of modern age technology, the sudden announcement of the change did not reach the French countrymen’s ears on time. As a result, these country dwellers continued to celebrate the New Year in the spring and thus became known as “April fools.”
Another amusing story of how April Fools’ Day came to be derives from the third and fourth centuries A.D. On April 1, Constantine I, the Roman emperor of the time, surrendered to the petitions advocating for one of the people’s elected members to rule for a day. Thereafter, King Kugel, Constantine’s main jester, took over the throne for 24 hours and declared that April 1 would forever remain as a day of absurdity.
Aside from old folk tales, a modern explanation for the birth of April Fools’ Day is spring fever. Many countries celebrate light-heartedness around the beginning of April. The Roman festival, Hilaria, is commemorated on March 25, celebrating the resurrection of Attis. The Hindu religious festival, Holi, otherwise known as the festival of love and colors, is usually held in mid-March. The Jewish holiday, Purium, also occurs during this time and rejoices the salvation of the Jews while remembering their leader Queen Esther. The rush of holidays around this period indicates that perhaps the myths surrounding April Fools’ Day are merely due to nature, the transition from winter to spring.