The “Fools” of April Fool’s Day

n the southern United States, an atheist brought a case  against the Easter and Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring the discrimination suit regarding  Christians, Jews, and their observances of these two religious holidays. The legal complaint?  It was unfair that atheists had no such recognized day(s) of their own. The matter was brought before a local magistrate who, after listening to the passionate presentation made by the lawyer on behalf of his client, immediately banged his gavel and declared, “Case dismissed.”  The lawyer instantly stood to his feet and objecting to the ruling, saying,  “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas and Easter, the Jews have Passover and  Hanukkah – yet my client and all other similar atheists have no such special days of their own.” The judge leaned forward in his chair and declared, “But they do all have one, of which both you and your client are obviously woefully ignorant.”  The lawyer protested, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any such special observance or holiday for atheists.”  The judge replied, “The calendar says April 1st is April Fool’s Day. The Bible says in Psalm 14:1, The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.  Thus it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day.” The court was adjourned and the lawyer is appealing the decision.

But April Fool’s Day is not about people who don’t believe in God, it is about those who do.

Long ago  the Romans had a deity name Janus who was the god of doors and gates.  Having two faces, one looking forward and one looking back, Julius Caesar thought it would be appropriate for January, Janus’s namesake month, to be the doorway to a new year.  So when the Emperor created the Julian Calendar he made January 1 the first day of the new year.  But as Rome fell and Christianity arose, the January 1 celebration of the new year was seen as too pagan (the Romans did, after all,  welcome in each new year with drunken orgies).  So the church moved the first day of the new year from January 1 to April 1 (the closest first of the month date to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection in March).

Now, from the very beginning, the Julian Calendar had a miscalculation problem  – it was off by eleven minutes a year.  So Easter, which was then observed on March 21, was getting farther from the spring equinox.  The church consulted with leading astronomers to correct the error, but even the great stargazer, Copernicus, felt there was still just not enough known about the motion of the sun and moon to be accurate.  Finally, the Italian scientist, Aloisius Lillus, came up with the idea of the leap year (adding a day to years only divisible by four).

Since Gregory was the Pope, the new dating method became known as the Gregorian Calendar.  The Roman Vicar again moved the date for the start of the new year back to January 1 and it was this change that ultimately brought April Fool’s Day into being. You see, there were godly believers who refused to accept January 1 and continued to observe the start of new year on April 1.  And so when others saw these saints celebrating the arrival of the new year a full four months  after  the rest of the world had done so, they spoke of them and to them as fools, and the day has taken this name since.