This Date in History – April Fools Day

Horseplay Isn’t Funny – Even on April 1st

Be skeptical about anything you read, see on the Internet or hear on TV, the radio or even the phone. At least on Friday. Why? Because Friday is April Fool’s Day. You might wonder how the whole April Fool’s business got started, especially if you’re a history buff like me. I decided to do a little research. Here’s what I found out.

First, foremost and fittingly, nobody knows the exact history of April Fool’s Day. The current thinking is that it began in France in 1582 when King Charles IX did what kings love to do: mess with the calendar. Charles’s contribution to this regal tradition was to introduce the Gregorian Calendar. Under the old calendar, New Year’s was celebrated over a week, from March 25 to April 1. In the Gregorian Calendar, New Year’s was reduced to a day and pushed back to January 1.

Because of the crude state of communications back in 1582, some individuals wouldn’t learn of the switch to Gregorian for years. The uninformed—and the rebellious–continued celebrating the old New Year’s. They were labeled “fools” and made the butt of jokes and pranks on April 1.

Supposedly, the harassment and prank-playing spread across Europe. The literature credits England and Scotland with “giving April Fool’s Day its first widespread celebration in the 18th century.” Although I don’t know exactly what that means, I did find out that the Scottish version of April Fool’s Day is called Taily Day and centers around buttocks jokes. Apparently, Taily Day is responsible for that great school yard prank, the “Kick Me” sign.

Surely, something as madcap and zany as April Fool’s couldn’t be expected to remain confined within European borders forever. And sure enough, the tradition or some variant thereof, would spread across the globe to the American colonies and into Africa and Asia as far east as India. Today, I am happy to report, most of humanity shares in the April Fool’s fun.

What does this have to do with safety you wonder? It goes without saying that some take this day to heart and feel it’s important to “get” their co-workers at some point during the day. So, with the arrival of April 1st, it’s important to reminder workers that this may not be as funny as the joker thinks. Horseplay has no place at work – especially when it could mean a serious incident.

So, my advice to all you, no matter what part of the earth you’re reading this from, is this: Keep your head up on Friday and keep any jokes you play – outside of the workplace.