Are you an April fool today? (published on April 1, 2007)

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Some see the trend as a celebration related to the turn of the season; others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar  

By Muhammad Shahid 

PESHAWAR: At the crack of dawn, most of the family members were asleep, except Salma – a 22-year old Peshawar University student living in Hayatabad – when the house phone rang.

Salma picked it up and the caller said: “Listen, we have kidnapped your brother. Ask your father to reach Badbher to get his son releasedsafely by paying Rs 1 million ransom,” the caller hung up and Salma rushed to her father’s room to tell him what she had heard over the phone.

Her father called his son and who was at his college and said he was safe.

It was only later that Salma and her family members realised that it was the 1st of April, April Fools Day or All Fools Day. Numerous people receive misleading information on the day. Some people adopt a strange modus operandi when it comes to playing pranks on others on April Fools Day and some of the tricks prove to be dangerous.

There are many who do not believe in the day’s celebration. “We do not have any time for April Fools Day, as we have a lot of other things to do,” Gulzar a Peshawar-based medical representative told Daily Times.

Azra, a medical student, agreed: “We have to prepare ourselves for for exams and I am so caught p with my studies that I cannot think of any pranks to play on anyone.”

The origins of April Fools Day are uncertain Some see the trend as a celebration related to the turn of the season; others belive it stems from the adoption of a new calendar.

According to the website www.infoplease.com, ancient cultures, including those as varied as the Romans and the Hindus, celebrated New Year’s Day on or around April 1. it closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20 or 21st). in medieval times, much of
Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian Calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated on January 1. that year
France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted News Year’s Day to January 1. accoding to popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date or did ot learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day  on April 1. other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on “fool’s errands” or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the pratice spread throughout Europe.

The website also says there are at least two difficulties with this explanation. The first is that it does not fully account for the spread of April Fools Day other European countries . the Gregorian Calendar was not adopted by England by
England until 1752, for example, but April Fools Day was already well established there by that point. The second is that we have no direct historical evidence for this explanation, only conjecture, and that conjecture appears to have been made more recently.

The website presents another explanation of the origins of April Fools Day given by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He explained that the practice began during the reign of
Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire.
Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be the king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and custom became an annual event.

“In a way” the website cites Prof Boskin as saying, “it was a very serious day. In those times fools were really wise men. It was the role of jesters to put things in perspective with humour.”

Spring Fever: Many different cultures have had days of foolishness around the start of April, give or take a couple of weeks. The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25, rejoicing in the resurrection of Attis. The Hindu calendar has Holi, and the Jewish calendar has Purim. Perhaps there is something about the time of year, with its turn from winter to spring, that lends itself to light hearted celebrations.

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