Why April 1?
Why today? Fools abound year-round, so what makes April 1 special? There's much historical speculation about the reasons. Some link this time of year to the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, which celebrated the wildness of nature with merriment and rejoicing. I wanted to illustrate this article, as I do others in Creative Life News. Would you believe today's illustration is one of my paintings? Nope, sorry to say it's just a prank. with the master artist's name noted in the caption. A Happy Hilaria Day to you!
Other explanations for this date refer to the custom of carnivalesque and free-for-all celebrations in many countries that occur in early Spring. Such celebrations were recorded in medieval England by Chaucer. Medieval scribes in France, too, referred to a gullible dupe as an "April fish". Yet another link may be when France's king declared a shift from the old Julian to the new (our) Gregorian calendar. This change resulted in January 1 becoming the new date beginning the new year instead of it remaining at the beginning of spring (April 1?). Resistance ensued to this major shift, and pranks were played in April during the former new year as a remembrance marker. But today's custom of playing pranks may link more closely to this story. The Emperor Constantine was convinced by a group of fools (jesters) to make one of them "king for a day". The Fool decreed his day of ruling to be filled with jolly joking. Ha! Here's the punchline! This story, itself, was a prank pulled by a professor on a journalist who reprinted this tale. I like this story because folklore tends to evolve a bit like gossip: it changes with the teller.
In any case, the first documented reference to April Fool's Day occurred in 1561 and reports a servant recognizing that his lord has sent him on a crazy "fool's errand" because it was April 1. So, the tradition of foolish and merry pranking has been around for a long time. At least we may be more alert to it this one day. (Thank you to Stephen Winick for his article in Folklife Today, 2016). And my you all enjoy some foolishness!
Creative Life News is Fun but not Foolish
You can look forward to our next column too. It doesn't fool around! It will dig deep into issues of Style, Branding, and Artistic Identity. We'll get some clarity of these complexities... important for creative persons of all sorts.