Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Short History of April Fool's Day

Dear Readers:

Last year, I came across an old copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica while sniffing around the bookshelf for a good place to nap - a la Fredrick the Literate.

Frederick is a champion napper and my personal hero!

Being the curious cat that I am, I pulled out the first book in the series - subjects beginning with the letter "A" - and started reading about the history of April Fool's Day. I did not know that humans needed a special day to play pranks on people. We cats do it all the time, regardless of the occasion. Anyhow I decided to share my knowledge with you last year and decided to do it again this year, for those who missed it!

There are many tales of the origin of April Fool's Day. The most widely believed is that it dates back to the mid-1500's, when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in England; switching the feast of the New Year from March 25 through April 1 (a week long celebration in honor of the Spring Equinox, which actually makes sense) to January 1, a single day in the middle of the winter. News traveled slowly back then and, as now, people were not fond of change. Because of this, there were still many who insisted on celebrating the New Year on April 1. Those who celebrated on January 1 would then make fun of those celebrating the New Year on April 1, and would often play good-natured jokes on them. Although this historical event popularized the April 1 date as a day for pranks, it is not what originated it.

As far back as the mid-5th century (1,000 years earlier) the Persians (now Iraqis) celebrated their own New Year with the celebration of Sizdah Bedar (literal translation: getting rid of 13) which falls on the 13th day of the New Year and the final day of celebration, generally April 1. It is a day to play pranks on each other and to be festive and joyful; and is actually one of the older holiday traditions still active in the world today. It is believed that this tradition was carried from Persia (Iraq) by European traders, who found the practice befitting their own celebration on that date.

April Fool's Day is a holiday celebrated by many countries throughout the world; especially those in Europe, where the celebration often takes on a life of its own with the media getting involved to assist in the perpetrating of jokes and hoaxes. Perhaps the most famous April Fool's Day hoax was the one about the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest, reported as actual news by the highly reputed BBC News, the perpetrators of the joke.

To go with all the meatballs, ja!

For more interesting tales of April Fool's Day jokes, check out the blog The Museum of Hoaxes. The British are also responsible for what might also be the longest running April Fool's Day joke: sending people to the Tower of London to witness the annual Washing of the Lions. Started in 1698, the prank continued to fool citizens right up through the mid-19th century; when, presumably, communications had improved through the printing of newspapers.

However you decide to spend your April Fool's Day - whether you try to convince someone that the restaurant chain Taco Bell has purchased the naming rights to the Liberty Bell (and is renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell) or you decide to try and shut down your downtown business district, have fun doing it! And for more ideas on various hoaxes to pull, check out The Museum of Hoaxes multi-blog article on The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time - each hoax intro leads to a full-page article (no joke!) that will keep you busy all day, leaving your cat the entire day to nap on top of your newspaper. It's a win-win situation!


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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