April Fools Day – April 1 – is right around the corner. Although it is not a legal holiday it is a day of jokes, pranks and foolish merriment. Celebrated around the world, its actual origins aren’t clear. Some say that the initial Julian (Roman) calendar marked March 25-April 1 as the first week of the new year, in keeping with the arrival of spring. The Gregorian calendar rearranged the starting point of the new year and those who continued to observe the Julian new year were, it was said, fools.
Historically, April Fools’ Day is referenced in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392) story, “Nuns Priest’s Tale”. It was on the 32nd day of March (April 1) that a fox tricked Chauntecleer. The Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote in 1539 of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April1. During the Middle Ages, the week long extravaganza of tom foolery was still observed in many European countries.
In New Zealand, UK, Australia and South Africa the jokes and pranks stop at noon. Those who continue to play jokes and pull pranks are called April Fools. In fact, it is common for newspapers in the UK to run an April Fool front page in the morning edition only. Elsewhere, the jesting lasts all day.
For fun, here is a partial list of how/when other countries celebrate foolishness.
· Iran: On Norwez (Persian New Year) which falls on the first or second day of April people play jokes on each other on the 13th day of celebration which is known as Sizdah Bedar and dates back to 536 B.C.
· Korea: The first snowy day of the year was a time for the royal family and their attendants to fool one another regardless of their status. The pranks were benevolent.
· Scotland: Hunt-the-Gowk Day ("gowk" is Gaelic for a foolish person) took place on April 1. The game involved the delivery of a message requesting help. The recipient would explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this person with an identical message, with the same result.