“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” – Mark Twain
First off… I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there’s to no one singular origin to the widespread phenomenon of “April Fools Day.” April Fools Day has been celebrated and observed for centuries in various countries and cultures, for different reasons, all over the world.
Only a fool would be bold enough to proclaim that they know the one definitive answer to the origin of April Fools Day. That’s because there is no one definitive answer to its origin. What follows is only one of the origins, most related to Western Tropical astrology. (And I won’t swear to you that I’m exactly right on all the little details.)
Vernal Equinox and Easter
To get started… many of us assume January 1 has always been pretty much the day traditionally set aside for celebrating the beginning of a new year. Not so.
From 14th to 16th century A.D., much of the Western world celebrated the new year on one of two days. Folks either celebrated the new year with a party that lasted from March 25 to April 1 – or they celebrated the coming of the new year on Easter, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As we all know, the date for Easter varies from year to year. However, during that period of time (using the “Julian Calendar”), Easter normally occurred around the first part of the month in April. April 1 in the “Julian Calendar” was likewise approximately the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere – as marked by the “vernal equinox.”
This is why, in Western Tropical astrology, the Tropical Zodiac still begins it’s yearly cycle in the Zodiac sign of Aries, marked by the “vernal equinox” and the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
In 1582 AD, Pope Gregory XIII introduced a spiffy new and improved calendar for the “Christian world,” and in this calendar (now called the “Gregorian Calendar”) the beginning of the new year was changed and was now declared to fall on January 1 (more closely aligning the celebration of the new year with the birth of Jesus Christ).
Ten days were deleted from the calendar, so that October 4, 1582 was followed by October 15, 1582. This change caused the vernal equinox (the first day of Spring) of 1583, and all subsequent years, to occur about March 21. Some years, such as the years 2000, 2001, and 2002, the first day of Spring occurs on March 20.
Are you confused yet? I know I am – but, all of the above, really does have a purpose.
April Fools and France
From 1363 AD on, France was one of those Western World countries having the tradition of celebrating the new year on Easter. The story goes that in 1563 AD a young pompous King Charles IX (born 1550 AD– died 1574 AD) declared to his subjects that heretofore New Year’s Day would be celebrated on January 1. (Notice this is prior to the “Gregorian calendar” change and the pope’s edict in 1582 AD)
When this happened, there were some folks who apparently either hadn’t heard word of the king’s edict or who had decided to stubbornly “stick to their guns” and defy the young king’s edict – and, thus, they continued celebrating New Year’s Day on Easter.
Remember now… that Easter normally occurred around the first part of the month in April.
These people, continuing to celebrate New Year’s Day on Easter, were given the moniker of being “April Fools.” It wasn’t until 1567 AD that most of France finally got with the king’s program and began celebrating New Year’s Day on January 1. The French tradition of sending folks out on a “fool’s errand” then began with a vengeance.
Today, in France, April 1 is called “Poisson d’Avril.” The tradition is that French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their friends’ backs. When the “April Fool” discovers this trick, the trickster yells “Poisson d’Avril!” (meaning: April Fish!)
The origin of this French “fish tradition” is officially considered to be “unknown.” However, it makes quite a bit of sense that the origin behind this “fish tradition” is that the Sun has now left winter and Pisces (the fishes) the final Sign of of the Zodiacal cycle and has now entered into the new birth and new hope of springtime in the Zodiac Sign of Aries (the ram).