Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Origin of April Fool's Day


If you have ever wondered who the April Fool is and why he got his name or even how, and why, we celebrate his own special day...April Fool's Day...this is his story.

The 'Fool' was born on April 1, 1582, in France. His name was Guy de Gowk. When he was born, everyone stared at him in absolute and utter amazement. "It must be a trick!" they exclaimed. "He looks quite the fool!"

It might have been his rakish grin, or perhaps the ear that was just not quite 'right'. He had the strangest little chicken legs...or perhaps they more closely resembled those of a turkey, as he also had a bit of a gobble. He always had a big grin on his face and loved to chortle with delight and glee. He had a strange penchant for bright objects and would stare at any and all of them for hours and hours.

His parents, hung strange objects above his crib...candelabras and pendants and flags and baubles to keep him entertained and in the process they created the first infant mobile. He loved his mobile dearly, and would reach up and grab them and hide them from his parents, then suddenly pull one of them out from behind his pillow and yellow 'cuckoo, cuckooo!' He roared with delight at his own cleverness, delighting his parents, as well.

Being so different and not ever really looking like his own parents or anyone else he knew, Guy grew up to be quite the loner but he also developed an understanding and appreciation for those that are different and often made the butt of other people's jokes. So, he turned the tables on those who teased him and played pranks on them, instead.

He came to be much loved by the members of his little village. He was the prankster who was always trying to trick others into believing his jokes and his ridicules. He loved to spring out from the bushes and yell 'cuckoo, cuckoo' and throw old dead fishes upon passersby. He would laugh uproariously and they would get even...by later pinning caricatures of dead fish upon his own back when he wasn't looking. Thus, in great jesting and fun, they made him the 'poisson d'avril', instead.

The townspeople continued to love and to care for him, but soon became tired of his constant pranks and sought to teach him a lesson. They decided to pull one big prank on him for a change. They planned a special day where the whole town would pull one practical joke, only this time the jokes would be on the little Guy. This event became known as 'hunting the gowk' or 'the cuckoo.' In France, it is known as 'poisson d'avril'....the April Fish...as the fish is the zodiac sign for April and the April fish is believed to be caught easily, as Guy most certainly was!

Once, the townspeople caught Guy de Gowk,they put up a 'kick me' sign on his back and pulled him through the town, dancing and yelling and carousing around him. They celebrated his catch for a full forty-eight hours, dressing him up in silly outfits and sending him on unusual and silly errands around the town.

In spite of all of the jokes and ridicule, Guy took it all in stride. He delighted in having his own special day and stayed in high spirits and light-heartedness. He knew in his heart that after a full year of pulling pranks on the townspeople, it was only fair that they got their day to trick him back. He liked playing the fool and he loved having a day celebrating silliness and fun in his honor. It became a tradition in this small town, to celebrate Guy's own special day every spring on the first day of April and became known as 'April Fool's Day'.

Others, hearing about all of the fun and hearing the laughter and merriment's for many miles, began to celebrate their own 'Guy de Gowk' or 'All Fool's Day.' It became an annual event, the time to officially welcome Spring, let go of Winter's cares and sadness and just truly enjoy life.

To this day, we continue to celebrate this tiny, odd little 'April Fool.' We may have forgotten his name, his origins or his peculiarities, but we still love the pranks, the merriment's and the fun of 'Guy de Gowk'...the little cuckoo.

P.S. April Fool's !!!
©With Heart and Hands
Michele M. Bilyeu, Salem OR

3 comments:

  1. Interesting -- I didn't know (didn't remember??) the story, but I lived in Paris for a year and on April 1 you can buy "poisson d'avril" chocolates in the stores, and kids still tape fish on each other's backs. It was fun!

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  2. Thanks for sharing this!! Thing One was just asking me about the 'why' of April Fools Day yesterday, now I can answer her question and still stay lazy! LOL.

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  3. For anyone who hasn't caught on, I pulled an April's fool joke on you!

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.