Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Calendrical Tomfoolery

I got to wondering why on this blog I’ve not yet done the pedantic sort of earnest thing I’m apt to do, namely to explain how April Fool’s Day originated. Now I have an explanation. It is that, by and large, nobody actually knows how the day originated. Attempts at tying it to New Year’s Day fail. Yes, once April 1st was New Year’s Day in some cultures—which is loosely associated with the Vernal Equinox. But that equinox takes place in March. And if the new year was such an inherently tricky or hoaxy day, why was its redesignation to January 1 (in 1582) not accompanied by the movement of Fool’s Day too? Some would have Chaucer as its originator, in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, where arrogant Chanticleer, the cock, is tricked by a fox; but that explanation relies for its justification on a presumed misspelling of one word in one sentence of the tale (link). No cigar. There was once a Feast of Fools celebrated more or less to coincide with the Feast of the Circumcision (January 1st). But how could the blasphemous Feast of Fools, condemned by the medieval Church, have found a rooting in April. Problems. Problems.

My personal problem is that this day was not marked in any way in my native Hungary. Yes, these days, Hungarians here and there mention it as an occasion of jokes, but it has no standing. When I consulted the Hungarian Wikipédia, as it is called there, asking for an article on Aprilis elsö, I was told that no such article exists, no article mentions it, and Wikipédia invited me to write the first one, if I wished. Brigitte has no memories of April Fool’s Day in Germany, and she lived in the north—nor do I though living in Bavaria where, per the German Wikipedia’s article it was common—indeed whence it emigrated to the United States. The German article is equally as fuzzy as the English-language version is.

My first e-mail this morning, however, informing me that my computer’s repairs will take at least another day—twice delayed already—ended with the following sentence: “I *wish* this were an April Fool joke...”

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