Remember how 1st April used to be such an important day when we were growing up. Not because it was the beginning of a new financial year, because it was April Fool – All Fools Day. The day we would play innocent pranks on each other – there’s a spider on your back, an insect on your head or the teacher just asked for you or you got a call from home. We were forever plotting and planning to make a fool of our friends and classmates while we were on our guard to avoid being fooled. Such careless childhood days when we could laugh at pranks, at silly jokes, more importantly, laugh at our foolish selves. I still hear the chorus ‘April Fool,’ when someone succumbed to the prank.
April Fool or the custom of setting aside a day to make a fool of others by playing harmless pranks is celebrated across the world for centuries. In Ukrainian city, Odessa April 1st is an official city holiday. Though we don’t know for sure how this custom came to being.T here’s a disputed association between April 1st and Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales (1392), a collection of 24 stories written in Middle English. In the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”, a vain fellow Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox on Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two, that readers understood as “32 March”, that is April 1. Though modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon, 32 days after March, 2 May or the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, that happened 1381.
In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April’s fish”), possibly the first reference in France. Some writers suggest that April Fool dates back to the Middle Ages when New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns, with a holiday that in some areas of France, ended on April 1. Those who celebrated New Year’s Eve on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates and came up with April Fools’ Day. January 1 as the beginning of a New Year’s became common in France only in the mid-16th century and was adopted officially only 1564, by the Edict of Roussillon.
In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1. In 1686, John Aubrey, an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer, referred to the celebration as “Fooles holy day”, the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”. Some even say that April Fool’s Day may go back to the Biblical times, the Genesis flood narrative – the mistake of Noah in sending the dove out of the ark before the water had abated on the first day of April.
Whatever the origin may be, we once played silly pranks and laughed at each other on April 1st. That was before we grew up to be a generation so thin-skinned and hypersensitive that any innocent comment or prank would offend us. We somehow lost our sense of humour and seemed to forget that we only make fools of our own selves. Whether we are trying to outsmart our parents by reading Robin Cook instead of practising Math for boards or hoping against hope that the cute boy will fall in love with us when he’s only interested in our notes. Years later, looking back at our exam scores, we realize what fools we have been. But we continue to fool ourselves, continue to hold on to silly dreams, we make stupid mistakes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Life is all about looking back, laughing at our follies and being better for it all. The only fools are ones’ who are so pompous that they don’t even see their follies!
So, all ye fools, let’s be trivial, let’s laugh at each other and more importantly let’s laugh at our own stupid selves for that’s what makes life worth living.