Monday, April 01, 2013

April's Fool Jokes

Tarot Card - The Fool
Tarot Card - The Fool
And the joke is on you! Ha ha ha! Because now you are going to have to learn.

...Unless you click away now. ...Don't do that, I'm so lonely...

Still, if you haven't fled, good. Something we don't always consider on this, April 1st, is why do people do this hilarious/flipping annoying stuff today.

Apparently, many have settled on one pat little story for why April 1st is so hilarious. It goes back to the end of the 16th century when the pope was updating the accepted calendar from the long standing Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. (This change curiously enough is tied to Easter, as the church was trying to get Easter to the right time of year. -- Sneaky old Easter.) Among the changes this new calendar caused was a shift of when the New Year occurred. It moved from April 1st to January 1st.

Now, the story goes, that some group were not pleased with this change. And didn't think reworked a calendar made a difference to when the year started. (I know! Traditionalist unwilling to accept change? And in the 16th century to?) So, apparently, they continued to celebrate the New Year in April. And were mocked as fools for doing it.



That isn't entirely true. From enjoying podcast like Skeptoid and Answer Me This I've long since learned that the nice pat and obvious origin story is often just the story people got fond of, or made sense so is accepted.

Trouble is that the spread and embrace of April Fools' Day doesn't real match up to the use of the new calendar throughout Europe. This custom was already in place in some regions when the calendar changes were embraced.

Also, it fails to account for the fact festivities around jokes and pranks, tied to March/April predate this and reach outside of Christendom. Before the church, in the Roman Empire, Hilaria was celebrated on March 25th, games of amusement, and masquerades and imitations. In February to late March, Hindi celebrate Holi, in part commemorating the pranks of Krishna and also dousing everyone in colored powders, and just getting messy. In Iran, Persians celebrate Sizdah Be-dar, which occurs around April 1st. This goes back to around 536 BCE, and involves going out into nature for the day and picnicking and enjoy everyone's company. In amidst the games and fun, people play pranks on each other.

It is interesting. Iranians offer one of the oldest traditions, we remember in history, but it ends up being found to some extent existing over in South Asia and west in the Roman Empire. And this period is one of transition. Winter to Spring (for the region of the world in question). So the chance to finally get outside again, to interact, to share, to commune...Seems like an excuse to finally share some japes with old friends you are getting reacquainted with.

But it's all speculation.

What we do know is that it's a tradition that seems to have gained solid purchase in society. That it's been spread by empires and colonials ever since. And some people still cannot take a joke. And some people don't know how to properly prank others.

In some ways we don't change. I'm sure, millennia back, during a Hilaria, lowly scribes chose to mock the wrong magistrate, and paid for it. And today, some cubical workers will prank the wrong manager, and pay a like price.


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