Tuesday, 1 April 2014


“Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.” - Sholom Aleichem

April Fool’s Day is a holiday that seems to be linked with the Vernal Equinox on the 21st of March.  There is some resemblance to some other Spring festivals, such as the Hilaria of ancient Rome (celebrated on the 25th of March) and the Hindu Holi.  The April Fool customs were probably initiated in France after the reformed calendar was adopted in 1564.  Until that time, the New Year began on the 21st of March and its festivities ended on April 1st, the last day of the celebrations being particularly boisterous.  When the beginning of the year was set back to January 1st, some people still continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1st. These people were called April Fools.

This apparently gave rise to the custom of fooling one’s friends and relatives on this day. The custom quickly spread to other countries, reaching England by 1600.  The most time-honoured method of making an April Fool of someone is to send them on a Fool's Errand.  Small children may be sent to fetch some “pigeon's milk” or “striped paint” or a “book of the life of Eve's mother”.  The fooled person is known in France as a Poisson d’ Avril (i.e. an April fish) and in Scotland as a Gowk (i.e a cuckoo).

In Scotland, the errands are written on a piece of paper, sealed in an envelope and given to a “gowk”.  He opens it, thinks up of a new errand and finds another “gowk” to pass the envelope on to.  This is referred to as the “hunting of the gowk”.  It should be noted that the fooling is confined to the morning hours because:
Twelve o' clock is past and gone
You're the fool for making me one.

1 comment:

  1. You note that when the 1st of January became New Year, some people still continued to celebrate the holiday on the 1st of April. It is cute that these people were called April Fools.

    But it was not cute to make an April Fool of someone by sending them on a Fool's Errand, especially children. That sounds a bit nasty, actually. Why would adults make children cry?