Editor’s Note: This column was originally published March 31, 2018.
Why am I telling you these stupid jokes? Because it’s April Fools’ Day.
Many holidays celebrate national heroes, religious events and even important dates in history. But April Fools’ Day is the only day I know of that celebrates pranks, practical jokes and utter foolishness.
Origins of this day are shrouded in mystery.
One theory is that when France changed their calendar in the 1500s, to begin in January rather than April, news of that change traveled slowly. Individuals who were the last to hear of it became the butt of everyone’s jokes, so they were often referred to as April Fools.
Another theory, according to the Washington Post, is that April Fools’ Day is what is left over from an old Roman custom called the Festival of Hilaria, then a socially accepted time for foolishness.
But these are mere theories.
I am going to tell you the true story of how April Fools’ Day began.
The story of April Fools’ Day
April Fools’ Day, a day reserved for hoaxes and pranks, began during the reign of Constantine. The story goes like this:
There were a group of court jesters, or fools as they were sometimes called, who were unhappy with the way Constantine was running things.
So, they sweet-talked him into letting a member of their group become king for a day.
Constantine was intrigued and agreed.
A man by the name of Kugel won the nomination. His brief stint as king just happened to be April 1, which he decreed as a day of absurdity.
Kugel and his group of jesters went to work making sure the day was jolly and fun. They even added humor to a day that traditionally had been serious.
At the time, jesters were considered wise men for their ability to put things in perspective with humor.
Apparently, the day was so well-received that Constantine made it an annual holiday, a day that has appropriately become known as April Fools’ Day.
Don’t believe everything you read
Before you stop reading this story and go on with your day, there is one thing I need to confess.
Everything I’ve just explained is fake news. The entire story about the history of April Fools’ Day was a lie.
Joseph Boskin, an emeritus history professor at Boston University, fabricated the story in 1983 when a reporter wanted a story about this topic.
“I don’t know anything about the holiday, and I really can’t be of help to you,” Boskin is reported as saying.
“Don’t be so modest,” the reporter replied.
When the reporter kept pushing, Boskin created a story.
There is no such person as Kugel, but there is a Jewish noodle pudding called Kugel.
“Since I was calling New York, where kugel is famous, and it was April Fools’ Day, I figured he would catch on,” Boskin told Boston University. “Instead, he asked how to spell kugel.”
The reporter bought the whole thing, and wrote the story which was published by The Associated Press.
When other news outlets started calling Boskin for the scoop on King Kugel, the truth came out.
Boskin used this experience to remind his students that they should never believe everything they hear.
“The AP always, always checks on stories, and for some reason this one fell through the cracks. It was their fault for not checking the story, and I embarrassed them,” Boskin told Boston University.
I don’t know how April Fools’ day began. But this story is better than any history lesson, don’t you think?