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The Origins of April Fools’ Day
Although April Fools’ Day has been celebrated for centuries by cultures around the world, the holiday’s origin is unclear. Historians point to a variety of possible beginnings, but the only solid conclusion is that the April Fools’ Day we know today is a blend of traditions. THE GREGORIAN CALENDAR In 1582, France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Some people were slow to get the news, and others failed to recognize that the start of the year had moved from April 1 to Jan. 1. Those who celebrated during the last week of March became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. People placed paper fish on the backs of March celebrators to symbolize young, easily caught fish and referred to them as “poissons d’avril,” or “April fools.” HILARIA Other historians have linked April Fools’ Day to the ancient Roman festival Hilaria, which was celebrated at the end of March. The festival honored Cybele, a mother of gods, and celebrations included parades, masquerades, and jokes to honor the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. 4 www.willsandtrustlawyers.com | www.beatmydui.com THE HISTORY OF APRIL FOOLS’ DAY FOOLED AGAIN
‘CANTERBURY TALES’ Another origin story comes from Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1392 book, “The Canterbury Tales.” There are still questions about whether Chaucer really wrote the stories and whether they have any direct link to April Fools’ Day. In the book, Chaucer describes the date “32 March.” Some believe this was a joke, because March 32 doesn’t exist, but some medievalists insist it was a misprint. April Fools’ Day certainly has murky origins. Whether our traditions come from the Gregorian calendar switch, Hilaria, or even “The Canterbury Tales,” we can all enjoy our chance to let loose and play pranks on our friends and family at least one day each year.
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