OK…. I am NOT going to plaster a bunch of silly business up here attempting to tell you that Martians have just landed in Branson, Missouri, that the Major League Baseball season has been cancelled, or even that Kate Perry is going to allow people who work backstage at her shows to speak to her. No I promise that this is going to be a straightforward and fairly brief rundown on the origins of this goofy tradition called “April Fools Day” which comes up every April 1. The fact is that nobody really knows for sure where it came from. Researching it on the web one comes across almost as many sources claiming to be true in one spot, while being dismissed out of hand in another spot as I found in researching the Black Dahlia. But there is one account which seems to come up most often as being the likely source of this whole crazy business, so that is the one on which I will concentrate. If you find yourself dissatisfied, LOOK ELSEWHERE!!
King Charles IX and the French Connection
NO, NO NO!!! Not THAT “French Connection!” I’m talking about a much earlier French Connection. I am referring to the connection between Charles IX and this “April Fools” nonsense! You see, Charles IX reigned as King of France from 1560 until his death by choking on red balloons (APRIL FOOLS!) in 1574. Well it seems that in that early 16’th Century period in France, New Years Day was observed on March 25 with a massive variety show on late night TV (APRIL FOOLS… get it??). OK, “seriously”, that is the way they rung in the New Year in France back then, to coincide with the advent of spring. The big party would run for a week and would include a lot of gift exchanges, and would end on April 1 with fancy dinners and yet more parties… I know that this sounds like the origins of Spring Break, but this part is for real!! Around about 1564, France adopted the reformed and more accurate Gregorian calender, and our new friend King Charles IX (that’s him below left…. really.. I know that he looks kind of silly, but… OH, never mind!! ANYWAY….) proclaimed that his people were to celebrate their New Years on January 1, like everyone else. Many of his subjects objected to this change in their partying habits. Others just…. “forgot” (HA!!) and kept right on with their week long March to April bash. What can I say??
Some of the French Keep on Partying ANYWAY…………
A lot of these more stick-in-the-muddy-old-ways types of Frenchmen found themselves the butt of jokes for their attachment to the old way of partying. Sometimes this ridicule would take the form of obviously foolish gifts (stocks in “Solyndra” perhaps??), as well as invitations to parties that were not really happening, and that sort of thing. The butt of these barbs was called a “poisson d’Avril”, the “April fish”, because this coincided with the Zodiac sign of Pisces, the fish. In time, all events that occurred on April1 came under this dubious honorific title. Even Napoleon I, the “great” Napoleon (!) came to be nick-named “April fish” (though not, I am guessing , to his face) because of his April1, 1810 wedding to Marie Louise of Austria (whose relatives really deserved the April FOOL title for setting her up with that crummy marriage). Eventually when these French folks became more accustomed to the New Years on January 1 idea, they kept the April 1 as “April Fools Day” as a kind of let’s have fun with this tradition. Nes pas?? And it time this whole thing spread like a pestilence from France to England from whence over time it came over here to America wherein it was enshrined on various Public Broadcasting Stations in the 1970’s as Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So there it is…. “roit Bruce?”
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By Mr. N.D. Gumby , D. & D. Piranha, Kipling Rd., Suffolk, 1972.