This weekend we celebrated a day of pranks, jokes, and trickery. Some people go to outlandish and extravagant efforts to pull pranks on others, and some let it pass by unrecognized. But how did this quirky custom get started? Let’s go to the library of all libraries – the Library of Congress – to find some answers.

The definition said: April Fools’ Day, or All Fools’ Day, as it is often referred to, is celebrated by sending people on fruitless errands, giving inedible treats, and other pranks. There were many news excerpts highlighting events of that day or recommendations for tricks, but it didn’t give me the “why” I was looking to learn.

On to Wikipedia, where it is reported that in 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “Fish of April”), another possible reference to the holiday.

In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday 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”.

An archived article from The San Francisco Call dated April 01, 1900 referred to a possible event in 1599 between the Romans and the Sabines. Many refer to this event as the origin of this day of tricks. Other references look to the old calendar that began the year on March 25th; the first week of the New Year was full of frolics and festivities, culminating on April 1st.

In Scotland, April Fools’ Day is traditionally called ‘Huntigowk Day. The name is a corruption of ‘Hunt the Gowk’, “gowk” being Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person.

In Poland, prima aprilis (“1 April” in Latin) is a day on which many jokes are told, and various hoaxes are prepared by people, media and even public institutions. Serious activities are usually avoided. This conviction is so strong that the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on April 1, 1683, was backdated to March 31.

This led me to look at other events happening on this date in history. Perusing through papal history, astronomy highlights, and sports achievements, I found one item of interest on April 1, 1976 – Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs founded Apple Computer in the garage of Jobs’ parents house in Cupertino, California. Now, that’s no joke.

Melody K. Smith

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