The tradition of April Fools day, or playing pranks to celebrate the beginning of spring, goes back for hundreds of years. Read on for a history of this mischievous holiday.
The Iranian New Year is the oldest holiday still celebrated which falls on roughly April 1st. The New Year is celebrated by throwing goats in a river and betting on where they will swim out. Then the irritated wet goats are herded into the homes of loved ones as a joke.
Roman generals recorded observing Druids who, on April 1st, would take several tourists who had been lured to an inn under the promise of “hot young singles from your area” and place them inside a large wicker man, which was then set on fire. The Roman government began using a similar tactic to trick people into paying their taxes at the beginning of spring.
When the Roman Julian calendar was replaced with the Gregorian calendar by Papal edict in 1582, the “April fools” still going by the old calendar could be seen sowing crops on April 1st.
In 1687 Sir Isaac Newton gave an advance copy of his Principia Mathematica to friends and relatives which was blank except for the words “God did it.”
Without doubt the American founding father of April Fools Day was Benjamin Franklin, who did more to cement the day as an American institution than any other man.
In the 1775 Continental Congress, Franklin convinced delegates from Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina that the meetings would be strictly “Pants Optional” affairs. He was known to give entire public speeches on the first wearing an ostentatious fake moustache. During his work as Ambassador to France, he would routinely meet members of French government with a duck on his head. Franklin would swear it was the solemn custom of the new Americas, until the official also agreed to conduct business wearing a duck. Tales of his exploits were published in the Philadelphia Gazette on April 1st of every year.
Since Franklin, April 1st has been synonymous in America for a day of practical jokes and general mischief. Such as the April 1st, 1975 broadcast of The Muppet Show in which Jim Henson staged an all Muppet production of A Streetcar Named Desire, featuring Kermit the Frog as Stanley and Miss Piggy as Blanche.
Weekly World News wishes all of our readers a safe and fun April Fools Day.