April Fools’ Day: One Origin Story

How did the First of April become April Fools’ Day? There are a number of origin stories, but here is one that we know isn’t true.

This version originated with Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. Boskin claimed the idea of designating a day for general foolishness came from the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine, who was supposedly challenged by his jesters that a fool could run the empire as well as he was. So Constantine appointed Kugel the jester as the emperor for one day, and Kugel took advantage of this power to proclaim an annual day of merriment.

It’s an interesting story, and the Associated Press reported it, not realizing Boskin had pulled his own April Fools’ prank on them until a couple of weeks later. In my opinion, they should’ve known something was amiss — who has the guts to tell a Roman emperor a fool could do his job?

Anyway, an account of this prank is in the April 1, 2021 edition of The Writer’s Almanac (https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-writers-almanac?).

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