What a Fool Believes: Happy April Fools’ Day!

by Amy McGarry

Amy McGarryAre you mischievous by nature? Do you love a good prank? Your day is here! On April 1st people around the world will celebrate practical joke day. Happy April Fools’ Day!

The Easily Duped

Diehard pranksters hardly need a state-sanctioned day for pranking, do they? My husband is one of those diehard pranksters. To his continuous delight, he had the good fortune to marry one of the most gullible, most easily duped people on the planet. His most frequent and favorite prank goes something like this: He touches a spot on my chest with his pointer finger, a concerned look on his face. He asks, “what’s that?” When I look down to see what could possibly be on my shirt, he quickly (but gently) sweeps his finger up and knocks me in the chin. Then he laughs like it’s the funniest thing ever. After 16 years of marriage I have learned not to fall for it. Usually. He’s persistent. And if I’m distracted or engaged in some activity, he can still catch me off guard. What a fool believes indeed!

Another example of my gullibility for pranks stems way back to my early teens. I had a crush on a boy who started calling me on the phone. We lived way out in the boondocks of wheat farming country where hunting was a common recreational activity. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised when the boy invited me to go snipe hunting. In fact, I was thrilled.
When I excitedly told my dad, an avid hunter, that I had been invited by a boy to go snipe hunting, he was kind. “Sorry, honey. You’ve been had. That’s a practical joke.” I didn’t mind so much, as clearly this was a flirtation and the boy wanted to be alone with me out in the wilds. (For those of you who don’t know, the snipe is an actual bird, but snipe hunting is a practical joke, meant to send a fool on a fool’s errand.)

The History of April Fools’ Day

But where did the idea to dedicate a whole day every year to playing pranks on people start? And why April 1st? According to History.com, one possibility is that April Fools’ Day began in France in 1582. This was the year France switched from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian calendar. On the Julian calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox near April 1. The Gregorian calendar changed New Year’s Day to January 1.

Of course, in the 16th century people were slow to get the news about a new calendar. Others saw no reason to change their old calendars. All of these folks continued to celebrate the new year the last week of March through April 1. Those who had adopted the new Gregorian calendar considered the others fools, more specifically, April Fools. These people became the “butt of jokes and hoaxes.”

One of these jokes was to place a paper fish on the unsuspectings’ backs, which was to advertise this person as a “poisson d’Avril” or April fish. The April fish was a young, easily caught fish, and thus symbolized a gullible person.

Another possible source of April Fools’ Day is the ancient Roman festival Hilaria (Latin for joyful). Hilaria was celebrated at the end of March and involved dressing up in disguises and “mocking” fellow citizens. It’s also where we get the word “hilarious.”

Finally, since spring is defined by its changing and unpredictable weather, it’s possible that April Fools’ Day simply represents Mother Nature fooling us at the beginning of spring with unpredictable weather. I certainly was fooled into thinking summer had arrived early when we had record-breaking warm weather and sunny days this March. The joke was on me. The warm sunny weather was soon replaced by cold, clouds, and rain. It may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, but she reserves the right to fool us all in the spring.

Regardless of its origins, April Fools’ Day had become popular throughout Britain during the 1700s. At this time, Scotland especially embraced April Fools’ Day, creating a two-day event. The first day, April 1st, became Huntigowk Day (hunting the gowk). A gowk is a word for cuckoo bird and is another symbol for a fool. On Huntigowk day, people were sent on phony errands. Sounds an awful lot like a snipe hunt to me.

The second day, called Tailie Day, involved pranks such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on peoples’ bums. That never gets old, does it?

Favorite Ideas

This prank is hard to achieve without having the requisite identical twins, but I love this one: When my kid was in elementary school, the identical twins in her grade but in different classes, switched classes on April 1st. The teachers never noticed, but were good natured when they were finally let in on the joke.

As my husband’s car is his prized-possession, the perfect April Fools’ prank for me to play on him is to move his car around the block so he will think it’s stolen.

Full confession: In fear of retribution, I probably won’t play that joke on my husband. If I get brave, I may tape a “kick me” sign on his behind and laugh my behind off when my kid kicks his butt and innocently proclaims they were just doing what the sign said to do.

On April 1st, gullible as I am, I will most likely just stay in bed all day with my head buried under the blankets, waiting for the clock to reach 12:01 am when I’ll give thanks that it’s finally April 2nd, Tailie Day. Then I’ll be on the constant lookout for a “kick me” sign on my behind!

Amy McGarry grew up in Spokane Valley, Washington. After a 20 year hiatus, she moved back to Spokane Valley where she lives with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is the author of “I am Farang: Adventures of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand” available on Amazon.com, Auntie’s Bookstore, and Barnes and Noble.


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