Get Ready, Baby!

Posted by M ws On Saturday, March 31, 2012 0 comments
An observance which takes place in many western countries every April 1, traditionally known as April Fools' Day or All Fools' Day (aka Poisson d'Avril — "April Fish" — in France). It's a day when humor reigns and harmless pranks, practical jokes, and hoaxes are sanctioned. Customary practices range from simple tricks played on friends, family, and coworkers to elaborate media hoaxes concocted for mass consumption.

Theories of origin:

The origins of April Fools' Day are obscure. The most commonly cited theory holds that it dates from 1582, the year France adopted the Gregorian Calendar, which shifted the observance of New Year's Day from the end of March (around the time of the vernal equinox) to the first of January.

According to popular lore some folks, out of ignorance, stubbornness, or both, continued to ring in the New Year on April 1 and were made the butt of jokes and pranks on account of their foolishness. This became an annual tradition, according to this version of events, which ultimately spread throughout Europe.

A major weakness of the calendar-change theory is that it fails to account for an historical record replete with traditions linking this time of year to merriment and tomfoolery dating all the way back to antiquity.
The Romans, for example, celebrated a festival on March 25 called Hilaria, marking the occasion with masquerades and "general good cheer."

Holi, the Hindu "festival of colors" observed in early March with "general merrymaking" and the "loosening of social norms," is at least as old.

It seems reasonable to speculate that the calendrical changes of the 16th and 17th centuries served more as an excuse to codify the general spirit of frivolity already associated with the advent of spring than as a direct inspiration.

Notable April Fools' Day pranks and hoaxes:

One of the great media hoaxes of all time was perpetrated on April 1, 1957 by the BBC, which reported on its news program Panorama that Switzerland was experiencing a bumper spaghetti harvest that year thanks to favorable weather and the elimination of the dread "spaghetti weevil." Staged video footage showing happy peasants plucking strands of pasta from tall trees was so convincing that many viewers actually called the network to ask how they could grow their own.

Some of the best-known pranks in recent years were mounted by advertising agencies. In 1996, Taco Bell ran a full-page ad in the New York Times announcing it had purchased the Liberty Bell and would rename it the "Taco Liberty Bell." Burger King pulled off a similar prank in 1998, announcing the rollout of its "Left-Handed Whopper" supposedly designed so that condiments would drip from the right side of the burger rather than the left.

On the Internet hoaxes have become such standard fare that April Fools' Day is barely distinguishable from any other, though a few notable pranks stand out and tend to be reposted year after year -- e.g., the 1996 announcement that every computer connected to the World Wide Web must be turned off for Internet Cleaning Day, a 24-hour period during which useless "flotsam and jetsam" are flushed from the system.

(Source: THIS LINK)

April Fool’s Day’s Roman Roots

Sometimes called All Fool’s Day, April Fool’s Day has its roots in several different world traditions. Ancient Romans had a festival day set aside for playing pranks that they called Hilaria. We might consider this festival the origin of April Fool’s Day, except that it actually took place on March 25. March 25th is within a week of today’s April Fool’s Day holiday, so the two are very similar. What was Hilaria like?

Hilaria was a celebration of the vernal equinox and of the Trojan goddess Cybele. The official Hilaria festivals took place on the first day of the year that was longer than the night time, a way to celebrate the death of winter and dark, gloomy days. The Hilaria were thus a religious festival, a harvest festival, and also a good way to blow off the steam that accumulated between people during the miserable winter season.

The Hilaria were way bigger than our April Fool’s Day festivities, with Olympic-style games to honor Cybele (to Trojans, she was the mother of the gods), and even a mock solemn procession with a statue of Cybele at the front, in which people openly sobbed and wept and moaned to get their sadness out of their system.

After the solem march through the streets, no one was allowed to be in mourning, to be sad, or to complain publicly during the Hilaria celebration. Instead, people were encouraged to play games, go to public sacrifices, and giant masquerade balls were held all over to honor the mother of the gods. At these masquerades, people were allowed to dress up as and mock public figures, the only time of year such mocking was allowed.

We can see the origin of some modern April Fool’s Day pranks in the Hilaria. We celebrate April Fool’s Day right at the beginning of spring, much like how the Hilaria were a celebration of the end of winter. Maybe we jump headfirst into April Fool’s Day as a way to let loose after the tense and moody days of the winter?

European Roots of April Fool’s Day

But no one is suggesting that today’s April Fool’s Day activities are a modern-day Hilaria. In fact, most people who play April Fool’s Day pranks have no idea what the Hilaria were. We can look to Europe for more recent beginnings to the April Fool’s Day tradition.

April Fool’s Day in Europe has a long history, even though it wasn’t always called April Fool’s Day. We have examples from the written record of April Fool’s Day-style pranks and jokes played throughout history near the beginning of spring. For example, In 1508 a French poet named Eloy d’Amerval makes mention of a festival called poisson d’avril, French for April fish. This holiday apparently celebrated the beginning of the safe season on the open seas.

Then, in 1686, the writer John Aubrey mentions a “Fooles holy day”, the first reference to April Fool’s Day in English. Aubrey wrote about a public prank played on members of the nobility who were tricked into visiting the Tower of London to watch the Lions get washed. While the humor of this joke hasn’t survived to this day, it was obviously a pretty humiliating thing to be tricked this way, as it made its way into the written record. We’re not sure what day of the year this “Fooles holy day” was, unfortunately.

The New Year’s Day Connection

The traditional understanding of the origins of April Fool’s Day has to do with the celebration of New Year’s Day during the Middle Ages. During that time, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 across Europe, thanks to the religious calendars of the time. People who celebrated New Year’s Day at that time celebrated it for a week, with the final day of the celebration taking place on April 1.

When some people started celebrating New Year’s Day according to the Gregorian calendar (meaning on January 1), those who still celebrated the old holiday were referred to as “April fools.” These were usually pagans who refused to honor the new Christian tradition.

Other April Fool’s Day Celebrations

April Fool’s Day is mostly a Western phenomenon, confined to countries in Europe and countries like America that were founded by Europeans. But April Fool’s Day is not the only day set aside for pranks. In fact, other countries around the world have a variety of special days set aside to play jokes on family and friends.

In Iran, the oldest prank celebration in the world continues to this day. Iranians set aside the 13th day of the Persian New Year for just such joking around. Coincidentally, this day falls every year on either April 1 or April 2nd. People living in present-day Iran have been celebrating this holiday (known in Iran as Sizdah Bedar) as long ago as 536 BC. Because of the similarities in date, it is possible that our April Fool’s Day celebration was influenced by this Persian holiday, thousands of years old.

In Spain, the day set aside for pranks and jokes is December 28, the Christian day on the calendar traditionally set aside as the “celebration of the Massacre of the Innocents.” There’s a whole tradition to these Spanish pranks: if you have a prank played on you, you’re supposed to shout back “You innocent little dove that let yourself be fooled!” The traditional holiday is not widespread throughout all of Spain, but very common in more rural areas, and has no attachment to our April Fool’s Day traditions.

If you look hard enough, you’ll find a day set aside for pranks in just about any culture. While it is impossible to pin down where the American version of April Fool’s Day comes form, it is clear that people for thousands of years have looked for opportunities to play jokes on their friends.

(Source: THIS LINK)

Get ready, folks! :-)

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