I somehow managed to muddle through another year without having to deal with the ridiculousness of April Fools’ Day… Throughout the year, I’ve been the victim of a number of different pranks in both my personal and my professional life. Everything from having my jacket sleeve filled with shredded paper or having one of my coworkers spritz a touch of pepper spray into my coffee. In the event you’ve never been pepper sprayed, it works by reacting with the mucous membranes; eyes, nose and mouth, mostly. So if you take a sip of it when it’s in your hot coffee, you may not notice it right away. But once it hits the inner lips, son of a bitch…
For the most part, playing pranks on friends and family can be hilarious and somewhat harmless. It’s when you do something that causes mischief or interferes with the general public that it becomes problematic. For example, one year I had a batch of kids who would constantly move a park bench into the middle of main street and put a toilet bowl on top of it. It would be pitch black and the middle of the night, so there was no finding who did it. But it was dark enough that a vehicle coming down the street could potentially collide with it. We’d take the time to remove it and as we’d patrol, we’;d find it back in the street, minutes later. Cheeky bastards! Working on the evening of April Fools’ Day was the worst day to be a cop, followed closely by Halloween and New Year’s Eve.
So, where does it all come from? I mean, I’d be lying if I said I never played a few creative pranks on friends in the past. But why do people feel that they need one specific day on the calendar to get all their mischief out of their system? Depending on the source you dig into, the calendar may actually be to blame… I found a couple of different sources behind April Fools’ Day’s origins and all seem to stem from the same general story. So, I’ll share a snippet from History.com:
“Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. In the Julian Calendar, as in the Hindu calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.” These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.”
Since I grew up in an environment with a heavy French population, I can confirm the French part of the explanation. I remember the paper fish thing from my early years in grade school. Sources go on to describe some different traditions in different countries, kind of like how Halloween has different backgrounds in different countries, as well. But depending on whether you’re the one playing the pranks or receiving them, enjoying it as a fun little escape from the everyday hum-drum of life is subjective to the recipient. I can’t recall if someone managed to get one past me last year but this year, I was lucky enough that April Fools’ Day took place on a Saturday so I didn’t have work to contend with, and none of my friends seemed inclined to try and pull anything on me. One more year survived… ☯️