Friday, April 01, 2005
The Origins of April Fools
On the first day of April, many, many moons ago, a young man named Joseph set forth from his home at the first cock's crow. He walked quickly along the gravelly path, eager to reach his destination. In just a few hours' time, he would be making the purchase of his first herd of livestock. Just 50 head, but it was a start. It would make him a man in the eyes of the village, and he would finally be able to propose to his long-time love, Rosa.
He met the vendor at their prearranged meeting place, and with the exchange of Joseph's entire stock of coins and a brief hand shake, Joseph became a man of means. His chest swelled with pride as he walked to the pasture where his herd awaited him. But, when he got there, no cattle could be found. He searched in vain, soaked his clothes in mud, but all to no avail. He walked home, dirty and disappointed.
Back in his village, word spread quickly. The entire village was laughing at him - April's Fool, they called him. Everyone else knew better than to trust an unknown vendor in April. Early spring always brought disreputable businessmen through the area, and Joseph had given all his money to a stranger without even first seeing his herd. Of course this dishonest vendor had since disappeared completely.
Joseph became the joke of the village. People taunted him as they walked by, laughed in his face, and worst of all, his dear Rosa was married off to a more worthy man.
This continued on for a year, and with the anniversary of his gaff rapidly approaching, he knew things would only get worse. So, for the first time in his life, Joseph began to plot and scheme.
On the next April 1st, Joseph got up early once again; this time, even before the rooster or the sun. Under the cover of darkness, Joseph went around to all of the neighbouring pastures and herded the cattle together. He drove them to a pasture hidden from the village by a hill. By the time the villagers woke up, they found their pastures to be empty. Joseph happily let this deflect the attention from him all day long before finally telling his neighbours where to find their cows. The villagers realized they'd been tricked, and took it good-naturedly. And every year after that, they played tricks on each other in good fun, each taking a turn to play April's Fool.
Other famous April Fools pranks:
April 1 1840: It is reported that a secret buried treasure has been found in Boston Common. People flock to the site.
April 1 1877: A New York newspaper reports that Thomas Edison has invented a food machine capable of turning soil into cereal and water into wine. People rejoice at having cured world hunger.
April 1 1957: A BBC show shows spaghetti being harvested from Swiss trees; getting rid of the dreaded 'spaghetti weevil' has resulted in an abundant bumper crop. People phone in, wanting their own spaghetti tree.
April 1 1965: the BBC airs an interview with the inventor of 'smell-o-vision', who chops onions and brews coffee on air to show its effectiveness. Viewers call in to marvel at its success.
April 1 1985: Sports Illustrated publishes an interview with Sidd Finch by George Plimpton. Finch is a rookie pitcher newly signed to The Mets, able to pitch 168 mph, but surprisingly has never even played the game before, having learned 'the art of pitching' in a Tibetan monastery. Mets fans rejoice at their luck.
April 1 1992: My mother tells my sister there's a horse in our pool. Sister believes her to this day, despite evidence to the contrary, and its physical impossibility.
April 1 1998: a nerd magazine announces that Alabama has changed the value of pi! State legislature voted to change it back to its 'biblical' value, 3.0. Nerds around the globe are outraged.
April 1 2001: Jamie and Jason announce their engagement. Oh wait. That one turns out to be real, although no one believes them.
April 1 ????: Please regale me with the tales of your best pranks, whether you were the perpetrator or the victim.