It is amazing how ancient and universal some customs are.
Archaeologists have unearthed cuneiform tablets which show laughing figures with full moon beside them which have been interpreted as an ancient mode of observing the equivalent of a day when people made fun of one another.
In one of his Monologues Plato says that the people of Thales used to set aside a date for poking fun at one another. They called the day Morosimera. In the Mithyopanishad of Sanskrit literature we read: eka divas seakales varsha sarva loka pari haamana: One day every year the whole world is a joke. The Latin poet Romulus Iocus wrote: ridere secundum mensem sanus est: To laugh in the second month (April) is healthy. According to Rabbi Ilan Nafta, in Hebrew Gematria (number mysticism) the letters of the second month Iyar has the same number as the word for teasing. In the medieval Arab world, the philosopher Ibn Bei Ku’f declared that laughing at the folly of others is a sign of intelligence. In the 15th century, Saint Scurra is said to have noted that the angels in Heaven periodically laugh at the fools on earth. We read in the Divina Tragedia: Danar si tolse e lasciollo di piano, e tutti divengono sciocci: They took their gold and smoothly left them off, and they all became fools. The French poet Bois de Leaux wrote: Nous sommes tous fous, un jour ou un autre: We are all fools, one day or another. In a play by the Dutch writer Mathiaas Vendel we read: Zelfs de verstandigen worden zot op een dag: Even the wise become fools one day. Juan Picó said: Cada uno es loco, un dia cada año: One day each year everyone is fools. And who can forget the words of the jester in Shalespeare’s Richard III:
In the stress and strain that flesh is heir to,
Amidst the pain and pang that fleeing life doth impose,
None that is spared,
Neither lord nor serf, priest nor laity,
Aye, not even the Rex of the Realm.
Wherefore, with wisdom derived from keen council,
The king of Merry England hath made
This the first day of bright April
When flowers bloom and birds coo,
Yes, the gracious sovereign of us all,
Hath declared this as the day
When all and the brother of all
May, with words and acts and tricks,
Make mockery and conjure up events
To mislead, delude or fool friends and family,
and so treat even the wise of all the world,
If no harm be done or meant.
Schilling put it thus: Heute mussen wir wachsam sein, nicht glauben was wir hören und lesen: Today we must be watchful, not believe what we hear or read. And the Tamil philosopher says: innikku yaaraiyum nambaathey: Trust no one today.
Indeed, except for the last line, not one statement in all that I have written above is true.
Happy April Fool’s Day!
April 1, 2019