On the beat

April Fools’ Day by your resident DCP fool

By Jim Bucher

Next Tuesday is my most favorite unofficial holiday of the year. You know where this is going, right?

Tuesday is April 1, 2014 – yes, April Fools’ Day.

Now, back in the day when I was a younger man, this was my greatest and most successful time of the year to “get” someone. Be it a prank, trick or what have you, I was pretty good at punking someone before Ashton Kutcher made a successful TV program out of it.

But alas, I’ve mellowed in my old age.

I got to thinking, though: where in the heck did April Fools’ Day get its name, and why?

Well, while fishing around on the web and according to some experts on the matter, (they must be expert fools, right?) I learned this: April Fools’ Day, sometimes called All Fools’ Day, is one of the most light-hearted days of the year, but its origins are uncertain. Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar.

You see, ancient cultures, including those of the Romans and Hindus, celebrated New Year’s Day on or around April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox – on March 20 or 21. In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year. Then, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar – the Gregorian calendar – to replace the old Julian calendar. The new calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. That year, France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year’s Day to Jan. 1.

(Is this WTMI?: Way Too Much Information?)

According to a popular explanation, many people refused to accept the new date, and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1. Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on “fool’s errands” or trying to trick them into believing something false.

Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe and then – guess what? – it ended up here.

Another explanation comes from Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. His research on the matter suggests April Fools’ Day began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor 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.

I think I’m buying that one.

“In a way,” continued 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.”

Well, Boskin’s explanation was picked up by the Associated Press back in 1983 and printed in newspapers all over the country.

Turns out, though, the professor had the last laugh: Boskin made the whole thing up. Yep, APRIL FOOL! And who says teachers don’t possess a sense of humor? HA!

OK now, back to reality, it is worth noting many different cultures have had days of foolishness around the start of April – springtime, if you will.

The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25, rejoicing in the resurrection of Attis.

The Hindu calendar has Holi, and the Jewish calendar has Purim. Perhaps there’s something about the time of year, with its turn from winter’s despair to the warmer days of spring, which lends it to fun celebrations.

April Fools’ Day is observed throughout the Western world. So, how about it? Let’s hear from you. Did you pull a prank? Or was one pulled on you? I’m sure we have lots of court jesters out there in Dayton City Paper land.

Did you stage a prank that didn’t quite work out the way you planned? Or how about this – did one go horribly wrong? I’ve pulled off so many, I can’t remember them all.

Actually, a year ago I left Channel 2 after almost 30 years. It was right around April, too.

But for some reason, when I walked out the door with all my stuff from my desk, no one said “April Fool!” Hello, I’m still waiting … I wondered why my door security card didn’t work …

Guess I was punked!

 

Cheers,

Buch

 

A regionally known and loved local television icon for over 25 years, “Buch’s” followers describe him as trust-worthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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