April 1, 1536 – April Foals’ Day

On April 1, 1536, the first official “April Fools’ Day” was celebrated in London, England under the rule of King Henry VIII.  Though relatively harmless fun in modern times, the pranks and hoaxes the holiday is known for have a rather grim origin.  The first April Fools’ Day began when the King’s court jester or “fool”, who historians only know as Oliver, was foolish enough to make a rather colorful joke about the King’s notorious six failed marriages.  Needless to say, this did not sit well with King Henry and Oliver was promptly beheaded, as was the custom of the time.  Very, very gradually over the years, April Fools’ Day pranks transitioned from beheadings to the more psychologically and emotionally scarring pranks we now practice today.

Though this was the first “official” April Fools’ Day, the unofficial origins of the holiday extend back centuries further to the ancient druids, who would celebrate the spring births of their horses with April Foals’ Day.  The intent of the holiday was to be a serious celebration of new beginnings and the arrival of Spring, but usually just ended up just being a bunch of drunk idiots throwing horse placentas at each other.  Hence the origins of the holiday’s trademark tomfoolery.

Over the years different countries have developed their own traditions to celebrate April Fools’ Day.  For instance, in Scotland, April Fools’ Day is traditionally called Huntigowk Day, which translates to “Hunt the Gowk” Day (a “gowk” being Scots for “foolish”).  As part of the holiday tradition, each village would vote who the most foolish person in town was and they would be dubbed “the gowk”.  The entire village would then be invited to hunt the unlucky individual who was sent out into the Scottish moors and given a three hour head start.  It would be years later that American author (of Scottish descent) Richard Connell would capture an adaptation of this grisly tradition in his classic short story, “The Most Dangerous Game” (originally titled “The Gowk That Got Away”).

I hope you have found this enlightening and if someone tries to April Fool you today, you can explain to them that no matter what they do to you, it beats being beheaded or hunted like wild game.  While these uneducated individuals are trying to figure out what in the heck you are talking about, you can take that opportunity to throw a horse placenta at them and make your exit (horse placentas can be found wherever your local hipsters shop).

Happy Fools Day from Hogwash!!!

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