Columns

As I See It: All Fools Day: Don’t be fooled!

Have you been fooled on April Fools’ Day?

Yes, this is a practical joke, a bitter prank, if you are not familiar with the annual custom, well… hoax if you will, that’s victimizing many, even today.

Jokesters often expose their actions by shouting “April Fools!” at the recipient, which should not be taken seriously. It’s a joke! Yeah, but sometimes, it becomes irritating to some when there was a delayed gesture announcing the joke.

Although many theories have been advanced, the exact origin of April Fools’ Day isn’t exactly known. There were coincidences or disputed associations but none is actually traceable to established facts.

For example, a  disputed association between April 1 and foolishness is in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales (1392). In the Nun’s Priest’s Tale“, a vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox on “Since March began thirty days and two,” i.e. 32 days since March began, which is  April 1. However, it is not clear that Chaucer was referencing April 1 since the text of the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” also states that the story takes place on the day when the sun is “in the sign of Taurus had y-rune Twenty degrees and one,” which would not be April 1. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, “Syn March was gon” If so, the passage would have originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. May 2. (Wikipedia)  

Also, in 1508, Wikipedia further wrote, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April’s fish”), possibly the first reference to the celebration in France. Some historians suggest that April Fools’ originated because, in the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns, with a holiday that in some areas of France, specifically, ended on April 1, and those who celebrated New Year’s Eve on January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates by the invention of April Fools’ Day. The use of  January1  as New Year’s Day became common in France only in the mid-16th century, and that date was not adopted officially until 1564, by the Edict of Roussillon, as called for during the Council of Trent in 1563. However, there are issues with this theory because there is an unambiguous reference to April Fools’ Day in a 1561 poem by Flemish poet Eduard de Dene of a nobleman who sent his servant on foolish errands on April 1, predating the change. April Fools’ Day was also an established tradition in Great Britain before January 1 was established as the start of the calendar year.

In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the celebration as “Fooles holy day“, the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.(Wikipedia)

Theories, both real and false, tie April Fools’ Day to Roman times, according to an article written by Aliza Chazan published in CBS News

Some believe April Fools’ Day dates back to Hilaria festivals celebrated during classical Roman times. The festival was held on March 25 which, in Roman terms, was called the “eighth of the Calends of April,” according to the Library of Congress. 

One theory tying the source of April Fools’ Day to Roman times is a hoax. In 1983, an Associated Press reporter reached out to Joseph Boskin, a historian at Boston University, to discuss the origins of April Fools’ Day. Boskin spun a tall tale to the reporter, assuming it would be fact-checked and revealed as fake. 

It wasn’t. 

Although no biblical scholar or historian is known to have mentioned a relationship, some have expressed the belief that the origins of April Fools’ Day may go back to the Genesis flood narrative. In a 1908 edition of the Harper’s Weekly, cartoonist Bertha R. McDonald wrote: “Some authorities gravely go back with it to the time of Noah and the ark. The London Public Advertiser of March 13, 1769, prints the following paragraph concerning this theory: ‘The mistake of Noah sending the dove out of the ark before the water had abated, on the first day of April, and to perpetuate the memory of this deliverance it was thought proper, whoever forgot so remarkable a circumstance, to punish them by sending them upon some sleeveless errand similar to that ineffectual message upon which the bird was sent by the patriarch.”— Bertha R. McDonald (1908)(Wikipedia)

A friend of mine posted on FB (Group chat) he won the lotto $300K. He is a credible person, respected, and posted it with seriousness. He did not take it back immediately, so his friends thought he was really a winner. His friends started planning a lot of group friends’ activities to be funded by him and even proposed a cruise of the group for a week.  He was silent… for hours.

This is something because most pranksters immediately say “April Fools” but in his case it let it pass for a while before telling the group it was a joke, an April fools’ day joke. But before that, he even told his friends he is in the lottery office claiming the prize… before he finally mentioned April Fool’s Day! That was a problem because it allowed it to pass for hours. There was a gap, so his friends were angry and never again told him they will no longer believe on him… next time.

I immediately recalled the story of the boy who asked for help and every time people responded, he said it was a joke. He again asked for help for the second time and people responded, then he told them it was a joke. When the real danger came, he then called for help… but this time, nobody tried to help him.

Well, this might be the opposite but the real issue here is credibility of the person making statement or asking for help or the immediacy of the joke.

Another recollection I have was in the field of journalism (I was a field reporter myself so I knew it.) Veteran reporters in the beat have the tendency to make a joke on new reporters (newbies) by giving him/her a false story. The newbies then submit the story only to find out it is not true. He/she was electrocuted/shocked (in Tagalog, we call it na-kuryente), a practice new reporter needs to know. This must be the version of April Fools’ day in journalism.

April Fools? Nah!

Let us be discreet in our jokes!