April Fool’s Day: A Brief History

April Fool’s Day has long been a socially sanctioned occasion for lighthearted pranks. Like many traditions, the roots of this celebration of tomfoolery belie its modern celebration. In fact, April Fool’s Day has a somewhat sinister origin that is seldom recognized today.

The genesis of the April Fool is said to have arisen some time during the early reign of Julius Caesar, prior to the adoption of the Julian calendar in 46 BCE. In those days, there was no month of April, and Martius (March) segued directly into Maius (May). As a means of testing the mental fortitude and gullibility of new recruits, Roman centurions used this time to perform a secret annual hazing of the rookies among their ranks.

On the last day of Martius, the greenest of the garrison were informed with great solemnity that Emperor Caesar’s beloved dog, Aprilis, had unexpectedly died that morning. The young soldiers were further told that Caesar was subsequently so distraught that he had ordered a special day of mourning for his departed pet. All citizens were to stay indoors for the entirety of the next day, with business to resume as usual the day after that. Naturally, it was added, Caesar would be highly offended if he were to see anyone, even a Roman soldier, out and about on this day of collective grief. Read More

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