APRIL FOOLS’ DAYCategory: Customs + Festivals
April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day, named from the custom of playing practical jokes or sending friends on fools’ errands, April 1. Its timing seems related to the vernal equinox, when nature fools mankind with sudden changes from showers to sunshine. It is a season when all people, even the most dignified, are given an excuse to play the fool. In April comes the cuckoo, emblem of simpletons; hence in Scotland the victim is called “cuckoo” or “gowk”, as in the verse: On the first day of Aprile, Hunt the gowk another mite. Hunting the gowk was a fruitless errand; so was hunting for hen’s teeth, for a square circle or for stirrup oil, the last- named proving to be several strokes from a leather strap.
A Practical Joke
About forty years ago a tradesman of the town of Dover had a good laugh at the expense of his fellow citizens.
On March 31 of the year in question, a large number of persons who owned dogs received a very official-looking; document. It was marked “Urgent”, and it bore the municipal coat of arms at the head of the page. The document was : typewritten and signed by the Mayor of the town. It ran as follows:
“Owing to a sudden outbreak of hydrophobia, it has become necessary to take special measures of precaution against this terrible malady and to have all the dogs of the town vaccinated.”
The notice went on to say that all persons owning dogs , were therefore summoned to appear at the Town Hall at 10 o’clock sharp on the following morning, April 1, accompanied by their pets.
By ten o’clock on the day appointed, hundreds of dogs, muzzled and unmuzzled, and of all breeds and sizes has assembled and were barking and wagging their tails in the courtyard of the Town Hall.
Aroused by the hubbub, the astonished officials came to the windows. None of them knew what to make of it. When the owners of the dogs showed their summonses and demanded admission, they were informed that there must be some mistake, as no such notices had been sent out.
Gradually it dawned upon the victims that some wit or other had made April fools of them. Most of them took it in good part and after a hearty laugh dispersed to their homes.