432. Strange American Trickster Rituals

On this first of April, TMTF dives again into the fascinating world of anthropology. We have already studied Halloween, with its gruesome ritual of carving jackal lanterns; Thanksgiving, with its sacrificial turkeys and gladiatorial sports; and St. Valentine’s Day, with its sentimental celebrations of a saint’s violent martyrdom. As we research holidays and share our findings on this blog, we pride ourselves upon the unflinching accuracy and trustworthiness of our investigations.

Today we turn our inquisitive gaze toward April Fools’ Day.

Insect lamp

In many parts of the world, one day of the year is set aside for playing harmless pranks upon friends and neighbors. April Fools’ Day is the most famous variation of this event, observed in the United States and elsewhere. It is celebrated with tricks, pranks, and hoaxes.

As historical context for the holiday is relatively scarce, we must begin our investigation with its name. The possessive case of the noun phrase April Fools’ in the holiday’s appellation is intriguing. The simplest interpretation suggests a day in April belonging to simpleminded people. A more specific theory, however, posits that April Fools is a formal title.

The latter interpretation of the holiday begs a number of questions. Who are the April Fools? What claim do they make upon April 1, and by what authority? Are the April Fools some sort of secret society? Why do they promote and encourage mayhem in the form of pranks and hoaxes on April Fools’ Day? Is it all a sinister conspiracy?!

Joker card

Caution prevents us from investigating this theory any further. If April Fools’ Day does belong to some secret society, we have no intention of exposing it. We know better than to provoke shadowy syndicates. If we wanted to put our lives on the line, we would be investigative journalists, not bloggers.

It may be unsafe for us to discuss the dubious origins of April Fools’ Day, but we can probably discuss the holiday’s customs without fear of reprisal. April Fools’ Day is an excuse to pull pranks and tell lies—it’s rather disgraceful, if you think about it. The holiday makes liars and tricksters of sane, respectable people.

Nowhere are there more casualties than on the Internet, which is already a fairly dishonest place. Only fools—not April Fools, mind you, but plain, non-secret society fools—swallow everything the Internet offers on April Fools’ Day. False news, spurious announcements, and fake media trailers abound. As Homestar Runner, the noted philosopher, observed, April 1 is “the day the Internet gets on the Internet to make inside jokes about the Internet!”

Yes, April 1 is an occasion for healthy skepticism… except for when you read this blog, of course. TMTF would never, on any day of the year, stoop to such shameful silliness, especially not on April Fools’ Day.

You can trust us.*

Be safe out there, everyone. Happy April Fools’ Day!


*Yeah, no. We’re making up all of this nonsense, yo. Don’t take any of it seriously! I would acknowledge today’s silliness by saying “April Fool,” but most of my posts about holidays are unashamed nonsense, so what would be the point?

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