Thursday, March 1, 2007
April Fools' Day - Historical Facts!
The most convincing historical evidence suggests that April Fool's Day originated in France in 1582, under King Charles IX. With the reform of the old Julian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII, the King ordered that the new year festivities associated with the vernal equinox be moved to January first according to the new Gregorian calendar. The vernal equinox celebrations started 25 March and lasted for a week, culminating in great dinners, parties and gift giving on 1 April. Many French men resisted the change and continued their annual 'Pagan' revelry on 1 April. They were mocked and ridiculed for persisting in their old ways, receiving fictitious invitations to non-existing parties.

The victim of such a prank was known as "Poisson d'Avril" or April fish, this being the time the Sun was leaving the zodiacal sign of Pisces … or fish. As a rule all functions occurring during this period came under that rubric. Even Napoleon I Emperor of France was nicknamed "Poisson d'Avril" when he married Marie Louise of Austria 1 April, 1810. French men continued to associate the date with whimsical April fooling, making it a uniquely French tradition. It was not until 1782, two centuries later that the practice crossed the channel and was adopted by the English, and from there it sailed to the New World with the pilgrims.

In Mexico, Peru and other Latin American countries the same tradition is celebrated on 28 December, known as "Dia de Los Innocentes". The day was once dedicated to mourning the innocent children slaughtered by King Herod during the early days of Christianity. It has evolved through the centuries and has acquired a lighter tone, full of sporting silliness, evoking joy and laughter.

Another intriguing symbol which has retained strong significance throughout history is the fish. It was worshipped as a deity by various peoples in Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean area. The fish was one of the astral signs of the Chaldean sun zodiac devoted to Sun worship. It was also worshipped by Syrians, Babylonians, Phillistines, Romans, Scandinavians and Greeks. The Egyptians still eat a pickled fish on their annual Spring day "Sham Al-Nessim", (Whiff of the breeze) and the ancients called their goddess Isis "Fish of the Abyss". In China, the great Mother Kwan Yi was often portrayed as a fish, and in India the goddess Kali was known as the "fish-eyed one".

The Church often Christianised pagan practices, emblems and even deities. Early Christians used the Greek word "ichthus" — fish — as an acrostic for Jesus based on the initial letters of the word (Iota Chi Theta Upselon Sigma) signifying Jesus Christ the son of God, the saviour, as explained by Saint Augustine.

The eating of fish on Friday is an old Swedish tradition honouring their Godess Friga… Romans also used Friday to worship Venus, calling it "dies viernes" day of Venus…

An Amalgam of pagan rituals that die hard, of Spring, of love, of fish, of fools, April Fool's Day, also known as All Fools' Day is still laden with mystery and joy, still prospers in this third millennium,fostered and protected by tradition, from the ravages of time. The reason is simple …according to ancient Roman poet Horace "it's lovely to be silly at the right moment"…

"A fool is better liked for his folly,
than a wise man for his wisdom,
So why not be a little foolish today;
Of all the creatures that creep, swim or fly,
Peopling the earth, waters and the sky,
From Rome to Iceland, Paris to Japan,
I really think, the greatest fool is man …"

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posted by Gerry at Thursday, March 01, 2007 ¤ Permalink ¤