Today In History: April Fool's Day

Today In History: April Fool's Day

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I had rather a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad.

-- Act V, The Open Forest as Before. As You Like It, by William Shakespeare


For centuries people have been telling small jokes and playing pranks, but in fact no one really knows how April Fools' Day originated.  Some trace it back to Renaissance Europe, in particular, to a poem written in 1508 by Eloy D’Amerval, Le Livre de Deablerie (The Book of Devilry); it references the "poisson d'avril", now known as the person who is duped on April 1st.  In France, it is common for children to pin a paper fish on the back of an unwitting friend. In Scotland, the day is known as Gowkie Day, referring to the cuckoo which symbolizes a fool -- usually a cuckold.  In Shakespearean literature, our most beloved fools entertain the royalty or nobles -- with great license to speak with truth and wisdom; enter Touchstone (As You Like It), Feste (Twelth Night), Trinculo (The Tempest), and the Fool (King Lear).  Some think April Fools' Day dates back to ancient Rome, with the raucous festival of Hilaria celebrating the love and death of Cybele and Attis -- or the Holi festival in India and Nepal, where participants throw colored water and powders on one another -- their actions meant to symbolize deviance from typical societal norms and rankings. Whatever the history, today in history, we wish to lighten your step, and let you know that sometimes it's okay not to know -- also let your imagination (aided by a little research) come to its own conclusions.

The following articles are drawn from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which informs and inspires classroom teaching and learning.

 

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