The Origins of April Fool's Day
Where, when and why did we decide that April 1st was a good day to pull pranks on one another?
Well, like many weird aspects of our history, that answer is likely lost to the annuals of time. However, the speculation has led to one of the most hilarious April Fool's pranks ever pulled.
Enter Professor Joseph Boskin
In 1984, Professor Joseph Boskin was worked as a professor emeritus of history in the College of Arts & Sciences in Boston. An Associated Press reporter calls Prof Boskin for his expertise on an article they were writing. Just why did 1st April become April Fool's Day?
Now if any of you have done any higher education in humanities subjects like literature, art or history, you’ll know it’s almost impossible to get a direct answer out of professors. Mostly because there really are no firm answers to be had in this field.
But vague answers aren’t good enough for journalists.
This is a profession which aims to get straight, clear answers and transmit them clearly to readers. So the more the journalist pushed Boksin for a straight answer (a technic that might work on politicians but not on churlish professors) the more Boskin got annoyed.
And so one of the greatest pranks ever pulled came about, and Boskin's didn't even realize he was doing it.
Boskin spun the AP journalist a tale
You see, during the 5th Century, the jesters who lived under the reign of King Constantine unionised. They asked for a day when they could rule and Constantine, being a good sport, declared that one of their number could be king for a day. Thus, one jester, taking the name King Kugel, ruled for one day on the 1st April.
Now, this one would have slipped me by, but kugel is in fact, a Jewish desert. It's a baked pudding made from egg noodles or potato and traditionally served on Shabbat and Yom Tov.
Boskin's was so convinced that the inclusion of this would tip the journalist off that he making a joke.
Since I was calling New York, where kugel is famous, and it was April Fools’ Day, I figured he would catch on. Instead, he asked how to spell kugel. Interview with Joseph Boskins
Instead AP published their article with Boskin's story
Of course, it doesn't take long before the Daily Free Press - Boston University's Independent Student Newspaper publishes the article "Professor Fools AP".
The AP had a huge conniption when they read this. I got an immediate phone call from an editor there, who was furious, saying that I had ruined the career of a young reporter. He said I told a lie. ‘A lie?’ I asked, ‘I was telling an April Fools’ Day story.’ 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. But I mean, really — kugel? What reporter from New York doesn’t know what that is? Interview with Joseph Boskins
According to the Telegraph, the hapless reporter didn’t suffer too much from the incident and later became a lecturer of journalism - at Boston University, in fact!
But where DID April Fool's Day come from?
Okay, historians have narrowed it down to several suspects. Depending on what you believe, it could have come from the Catholic Church's decision to start the calendar year in January. Meaning those who kept celebrating new years at the end of the March were 'fools'.
Or, even further back, to the Roman festival of Hilaria or even the Jewish holiday Purim have mischief as part of the celebrations.
Either way, it has little to do with King Kugel...