April Fools’ Day is a well known day of silly fun. But do you know how this prankster’s holiday got its start?
The story of King Kugel
In 1983, Boston University spread the word that Joseph Boskin, a professor emeritus of history at the university, was an expert on April Fools’ Day. Boskin soon fielded a telephone call from an enthusiastic Associated Press reporter who was curious about the holiday’s origins. The professor explained that April Fools’ dated back to Roman times when Emperor Constantine was challenged by a gaggle of court jesters who announced that they could run the empire more effectively. Amused, Constantine named one of the jesters, a man called Kugel, king for a day. King Kugel promptly declared that henceforth the day of his reign would be marked with an annual day of ridiculousness.
If only the reporter had remembered that a kugel is a type of casserole. Maybe then he would have realized the joke before the story had been picked up and run by media outlets across the country.
Ironically, that young reporter, Fred Bayles, is now an associate professor of journalism at Boston University.
Other explanations for April Fools’ Day
There are other, slightly more credible explanations for April Fools’ Day. One academic sounding theory blames confusion caused by the shift from the Julian Calendar, which had each new year begin around May, to the Gregorian Calendar, which shifted the start of the year to January 1. Popular lore says that those who continued to celebrate the traditional new year in the spring were called April Fools. However, it should be noted that April Fools’ Day was celebrated widely in many countries even before they adopted the Gregorian Calendar.
Perhaps the most likely explanation is spring fever. Many cultures celebrated spring’s arrival with silly revelry. The Roman Hilaria, the Hindu Holi and the Jewish Purim are just a few examples.
The truth about April Fools’ Day
If someone tells you that they know the story of how April Fools’ Day got its start, be wary. The truth is that no one really knows the exact origins of this fun holiday.
“King Kugel: An April Fools’ History Lesson” — Washington Post
“How a BU Prof April-Fooled the Country” — BU Today
“April Fools’ Day: Origin and History” — infoplease.com
To read more by Bree Shaw click here.