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April Fools Day
Ever wonder how April Fools Day came to be? We all know April Fools Day (sometimes called All Fools Day) is celebrated every year on April 1 by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. The jokes and their victims are called April fools. People playing April Fool jokes expose their prank by shouting April Fool. Some websites, newspapers, magazines, and other published media report fake stories, which are usually explained the next day or below the news section in small letters. Although April Fools Day has been popular since the 19th century, the day is not a actually a public holiday in any country. So how did April Fools Day come to be?
One popular explanation of the origins of April Fools Day was provided by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event.
“In a way,” explained Prof. Boskin, “it was a very serious day. In those times fools were really wise men. It was the role of jesters to put things in perspective with humor.”
This explanation was brought to the public’s attention in an Associated Press article printed by many newspapers in 1983. There was only one catch: Boskin made the whole thing up. It took a couple of weeks for the AP to realize that they’d been victims of an April Fools’ joke themselves. So where did April Fools Day really begin?
The real answer is… no one knows. The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor is recognized everywhere, throughout recorded history. One precursor of April Fools Day includes the Roman festival of Hilaria. Hilaria was originally the name given to any public or private day or season of rejoicing. Hilaria included celebrations for anything from the day on which a person married, or which a child was born to more. Such days were devoted to general rejoicings and public sacrifices, and no one was allowed to show any symptoms of grief or sorrow. But the Romans also celebrated Hilaria, as a festival, on March 25th, the eighth day before the start of April, in honor of Cybele, the mother of the gods; and it is probably to distinguish these Hilaria from those mentioned above. The day of its celebration was the first after the vernal equinox, or the first day of the year which was longer than the night (think Spring!). The winter with its gloom had died, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings and jokes. The manner of its celebration during this time is unknown, except that for mentions of games in honor of the mother of the gods. All kinds of games and amusements were allowed on this day; masquerades were the most prominent among them, and everyone might, in their disguise, imitate whomsoever they liked.
The practice of April Fools Day pranks and hoaxes is controversial. The positive view is that April Fools can be good for one’s health because it encourages “jokes, hoaxes, pranks and laughter, and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart. There are many “best of” April Fools Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the day is celebrated. Various April Fools campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort.
The negative view describes April Fools Day hoaxes as “creepy and manipulative”, “rude”, and “a little bit nasty”, as well as based on deceit. When genuine news is published on April Fools’ Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke—for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4 MB or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright. On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion, misinformation, waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger), and even legal or commercial consequences.
Whatever your take, that’s what it is. April Fools Day, a day for jokes and laughter. Celebrated across the world in many shapes and forms since the beginning of time. So do your part, make an April fool out of someone you love this April Fools Day.