Origin and Meaning of April Fools' Day

Origins and Meaning of April Fools’ Day

Meaning of April Fools’ Day

Exploring the Origins and Meaning of April Fools’ Day: April Fools’ Day has a varied and intricate history.  So much so, it’s hard to know where to start pulling the thread of history to gain clarity about this day in time.  Suffice to say, April Fools’ Day meaning is spread wide and far from European countries, including Scotland and as far as the days of Christ.

What’s important to know about this first day in the month of April is that it renders a certain launching of quixotic energy.  What do I mean by that? Well, April is a funky month. Full of invigoration and renewal and growth (at least in the Northern hemisphere). This is a time when spring is catapulting upon the lives of all things growing and craving reinvention into new chapters of creative expression.  Consider…spring is a promise of reinvigoration after a time of so-called death (symbolically known as winter).  So when flowers start blooming, and the kiss of the sun becomes so warmly hypnotic…life gets a bit crazy. 

Origin and Meaning of April Fool's Day
Origin and Meaning of April Fools’ Day

I remember coming out of the grips of winter while living in Buffalo NY.  When the sun started defrosting the frigid area, and everything starting blooming…critters and humans got wonky.  The behavior got frenzied across the board.  At the core of the meaning of April Fools’ Day, I think this is key.  When life tastes the elixir of refreshment and the enchantment of the sun shining after a long recession…Nature (and humans and creatures) tend to go a bit bonkers.  As such, I believe the core origin of April Fools’ Day is about how things get weird, silly, and crazy on this day.  But, you’re here to get solid meanings about this day, and I’m not one to disappoint. 

I’ve dug into my history books to provide you with solid records about the origins and meanings of April Fools’ Day, and I hope you are as intrigued and captured by the creativity surrounding this day in time as I am.

“It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humor.”

~Max Eastman
Origin and Meaning of April Fools' Day
Origin and Meaning of April Fools’ Day

Cultural Origins and Meaning of April Fools’ Day

There are a lot of misconceptions about the origins and meaning of April Fools’ Day. This is a summary of beliefs and origins of this day on April first grounded in history that might de-mystify the false conceptions of this day.

Christian:  No resources in Christian history consider April Fools’ Day a joking matter…I just want to make that clear.  This is a somber day in the faith, and here are some points in history that connect Christianity with the 1st of April. Some sources indicate that the Christian origin of April Fools’ day stemmed from Christ enduring a pilgrimage from Annas to Caiaphas. This was a journey that eventually delivered Him to Pontius Pilot and Herod, which ultimately led to his crucifixion. Further evidence of this epic trajectory is found in the festival of Easter that started in the Middle Ages in which parades and pilgrimages were held that repeated the same steps of Christ on that fateful journey.

This, of course, has nothing to do with tricks or play.   But, there is another Christian account that relates to Noah and the ark he built during the great flood (Genesis in the Bible).  Some reports reveal that Noah was commanded by God to send out doves to survey the earth to be sure the waters receded and this was a sign that it was safe to release all the animals from the ark.  April Fools’ Day meaning is connected to Noah in Christianity because (as some tales tell) he first released crows (instead of doves as commanded by God). The crows returned to Noah saying “Hey, it’s all good! Unload the beasties!“…this was not the case, and Noah was clearly duped by the tricky crows.  However, Noah released doves on a second attempt, and this was a more honorable and reliable prospect of a renewal of the land and safety for unleashing all the life upon the ark. To this very day (because the crows played a ruse on Noah), crows are known as tricksters and are closely associated with April Fools’ Day.

Origin and Meaning of April Fools' Day
Origin and Meaning of April Fools’ Day & The Role of the Trickster Crow

Cherokee: The first day of April in the Native American Cherokee clan has nothing to do with foolery or tricks. In fact, it’s all about remembering heritage and stories within the tribe and sharing with other members so the history can live on from generation to generation. This day was one of devotion to elders, and preserving stories that created a dynamic culture. If anything (at least from this viewpoint) the meaning of April Fools’ Day in Cherokee’s mind is that the joke is on the youth if they cannot embrace and remember the old ways. You see, the purpose for sharing the history and honoring elders is all about extending the life of the community.  In the Native mind and way of thinking, if our young ones cannot do this, then we are all doomed to be fools.

Pagan: The word pagan merely means “country folk” (Latin language).  So, the country folk in early European regions took a lot of influences from old ways of agriculture.  This day in pre-industrial, agricultural cultures presented a time when folks could play, and have a bit of fun. There was a celebration at this time called “Festival of Fools” and everybody was permitted to get up to all sorts of wild antics on this day. In essence, this was a day to pause all the relentless work of tilling the land and planting seeds (after a brutal winter) and just take a break to play and have a bit of fun in the community.

Scotland: In early Scotland, April Fools’ Day is known as Huntigawk Day.  This is where we really see the origin of April Fools’ Day as being a time of tom-foolery.  Apparently, this was a day when Scots sent unsuspecting folks on a foolish journey…to accomplish a task that had absolutely no hope of result or consequence.  In other words, it was a joke or a jape.  Consequently, this is a time in history when we start to see the phrase “fool’s journey” becoming popularized in modern nomenclature.  At any rate, the 1st of April was a time when a Scott of high standing would send a simpleton on a vapid journey. This task was called “Hunting the Cuckoo” (or also known as “hunting the gowk“). It was slightly insensitive and clearly a ruse…but it is yet another example of this day focusing on silly playtime and elements of the nonsensical.

Wiccan: The way of the Wicca is simply a practice of recognizing the old ways and wisdom of ancestral practices.  The meaning of April Fools’ day in Wiccan traditions dates back to Medieval times in which inmates from insane asylums were released for one single day in the year (yes, you guessed it, April 1st) to taste freedom, express themselves…and yeah…probably get into some trouble.  As the Wiccan traditions evolved, the practice became more about letting one’s hair down and less about the asylum inmates running rampant in the streets. This day in the Wiccan belief system is about letting off steam, getting a little crazy and embracing the chaos inherent in all elements of Nature.

Origin and Meaning of April Fools' Day
Origin and Meaning of April Fools’ Day

In closing, I hope this article on the origin and meaning of April Fools’ Day has given you a broad idea about this day on April First.  Mostly, I hope this article inspires you to be free, have some fun, play and experience one day of frivolity.  Whatever your objectives are, please be safe!

Happy April Fools’ Day to you and yours!

Mighty brightly,

Avia

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