April Fools Day is actually not a legal holiday, despite the fact that it is nearly universally celebrated. It’s widely accepted as a day on which you can get away with all manner of practical jokes and foolish behavior. Every year on April Fools Day, people play pranks of all kinds on friends, family members, co-workers, relatives, and others.
In Chaucer’s well known literary work, Canterbury Tales, there is a story called the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” which supposedly takes place on March 32 days after “March.” Obviously, March only has 31 days, so most people naturally assumed the author must have been referring to April 1st.
The date the author was actually referring to was May 2nd, 32 days after “March,” which was the English celebration of Richard II’s engagement to his bride. Thus, Chaucer effectively “fooled” everyone. Additionally, on that day in Chaucer’s story, a Rooster named “Chauntecleer” was tricked by a fox. These two things in Chaucer’s story eventually became in large part the origins of the term, “April Fools Day.” People in Chaucer’s day didn’t have things like Movies, TV, and the internet. Even books were a rare luxury back then. Thus, stories like this were recited all over the countryside by people telling stories to their children and friends, making Chaucer’s story the medieval equivalent of a popular movie—thus it’s huge impact on the popular culture of the day. Before long, other writers began to pick up the idea of an “April Fools Day” and run with it, incorporating it into their own stories involving pranks, jokes, and other humor.
This is a pretty odd story, and one that certainly doesn’t seem worthy of a major international celebration, but nonetheless is the story of how April Fools Day began.
An alternate explanation for the celebration of April Fools Day comes from the fact that for most of history, the new years’ celebration began during the last week of March every year, ending in a huge celebration on April 1st. When the new years’ celebration was shifted to January 1st, a small number of people continued celebrating it on the original day, April 1st. These people were made fun of and considered weird by most other people. They soon came to be known as “April Fools.”
No matter how or why you celebrate April Fools Day, have fun and enjoy the day! Everyone loves a good excuse to play a prank on someone.
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