April Fool's day

April Fool’s Day

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April Fool's DayAs the calendar rolls around to April Fool’s Day again, most of us at Smith Mountain Lake probably take for granted that the tradition has been around forever. But having a curiosity gene, I had to go research how a silly thing like this found a place on our national calendar. Below you will find the gist of what legend/history tells us is the most popular theory of the day’s origins.

In 1582 France became the first country to switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar established by the Council of Trent (1563). This switch meant, among other things, that the beginning of the year was moved from the end of March to January 1. Those who failed to keep up with the change, who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th (known in England as Lady Day) and April 1st, had various jokes played on them. For instance, pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were given the epithet Poisson d’Avril or April Fish. Thus, April Fool’s Day was born.

The calendar change might provide a reason for why April 1st specifically became the date of the modern holiday. But the idea of a springtime festival of trickery and mayhem had more ancient roots. No one knows exactly where, when, or why the celebration began. What we do know is that references to ‘All Fool’s Day’ (what April Fool’s Day was first called) began to appear in Europe during the late Middle Ages. All Fool’s Day was a folk celebration and elite participation in it appears to have been minimal (which is why it’s so difficult to trace the exact origin of the day because the people celebrating it back then weren’t the kind of people who kept records of what they did). But what is clear is that the tradition of a day devoted to foolery had ancient roots.

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