It’s been around a long time, and it seems destined to stick around, so if you don’t like April Fool’s Day, you better stay home today. It’s the day for tricks and jokes, and it has been around for hundreds of years.
Nobody really knows how April Fool’s Day started. Some historians think it began in Europe with the Greco-Roman festival Hilaria, which was a jocular party time in those days. Others credit the English writer Chaucer and his Canterbury tales. Some people think it just happened, that the end of cold dark winter and arrival of warm bright spring lightened the soul, brightened the spirit, and put us all in a mood for laughter and fun. It’s a time for pranks.
It seems like one of the most popular April Fool’s jokes is to waste someone’s time with a task. The first reference to this sort of prank comes from a 1561 Flemish poem In which a nobleman sends a servant on crazy, fruitless errands. The servant sees that he is on “fool’s errands” because it’s April 1. This sort of prank is still popular, nearly 500 years later. Have you ever been on a snipe hunt? How about being sent to the auto parts store for a part that doesn’t exist?
There are some differences between countries in the way people celebrate April Fools’ Day, but hey all seem to be an excuse to make someone else look like a fool. In France the fooled person is called an ‘April fish’. In Scotland, it’s called Gowkie Day, for the gowk, or cuckoo, which is a symbol for a fool.
Sometimes the news media gets into the act with phony stories. One famous one was a news report that an airline was going to add planes with glass floors to their fleet. The phony story was picked up on a wire service and ran as a legitimate story around the world. The joke wasn’t spotted for several days.
So watch your back today, be ready for someone switching the salt and the sugar, putting a ‘kick me’ sign on your back, and treat all your news as fake news for the day. Except here, of course. We’d never try to fool you.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.