I type this as a wave of dread washes over me.
This is my April column, and you know what that means?
April Fools’ Day is coming.
The pranks, the mischief, the jokes … the headaches.
I’m a fun gal. I love a good joke and I even appreciate the occasional prank – but April Fools’ Day fills me with angst.
The problem? You know something is coming, but what will it be and when? Will someone short-sheet my bed, tell me I’m fired or tell me they’re pregnant and then follow it up with a boisterous, “April Fools’!”?
After that, I am expected to act surprised, laugh and say, “Oh, you really got me.”
Except, no. No, you didn’t get me. It is April Fools’ Day. I am not going to believe anything you tell me. I will not bat an eye when I sit on the whoopee cushion you put under my desk chair seat.
Apparently, I have unresolved issues related to this day devoted to mischief. Maybe it is because I prefer to be caught completely off guard when someone pulls an annoying practical joke on me.
Why do we even celebrate this?
I did some digging and discovered that no one really knows for sure; but the annual observance has been around for centuries.
The History Channel’s website cites historians who speculate it dates back to 1582, when France switched from following the Julian calendar to the Gregorian. On the Gregorian calendar, the New Year begins January 1 but on the Julian, it was April 1. Some people, regarded as “April Fools,”continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1 and were thus subjected to jeers and practical jokes.
You may wonder what kind of pranks folks pulled back then. Let’s just say that these 16th century jokesters were creative, often pinning paper fish to the backs of April Fools and calling them, “poisson d’Avril” (April fish), which back then was a way of calling someone gullible. Kind of like the “kick me” sign we jokingly stick on an unsuspecting person’s back these days. That little prank actually dates back to 18th century Scotland, when April Fools’ Day started to become a thing in Britain. It was a two-day celebration in Scotland that included sending people on bogus, or “fool’s” errands.
However it began, April Fools’ Day is a tradition that just won’t go away.
CNN reports that even big corporations have even joined in the fun. Back in the 1990s, Taco Bell took out an ad declaring it had purchased the Liberty Bell. In 2015, Cottonelle tweeted it was introducing left-handed toilet paper. In 2005, Google announced a phony new drink called the Google Gulp.
How does anyone fall for this? It’s April Fools’.
Fool me once, it probably won’t be on April 1. Of course now, some people may take this as a challenge. Then, I suppose the joke really would be on me.