For a large part of our recorded history, the new year has been celebrated on March 25, as spring begins, with days of parties and feast culminating on April 1. King Charles IX, being French, regarded anything that everyone else was doing as cliche, passe, and outre. In 1563, he changed the beginning of the year to January 1. Tres avant garde! It is unclear as to whether 1563 was shortened or lengthened, but you can bet it wreaked havoc on interest payments.
As with all things fashionable, there were imitators. Never ones to be left out of a trend, Italians were soon to make their mark. Much to the would be chagrin of Charles IX had he still been alive, an Italian upstart named Pope Gregory XIII decided in 1582, that in addition to following the French lead and changing the date of the new year, he would revolutionize the entire calendar making industry by throwing in a couple of weeks for good measure. This infuriated tapestry makers to no end, but no amount of unpicked threading would sway the vicar on this one. The bulk of public opinion at the time, subject to excommunication and eternity in hell, was squarely behind the idea and though old Gregory a right brilliant chap.
Communication being what it was at the time, word of mouth for the most part, and not even in English at that, large portions of the public were slow to get the word that the particular seven day workweek they thought they were in was in fact, a completely different seven day work week. Secondly, tapestry, the primary mode by which most of the illiterate masses got their history, was in full catch up mode to accommodate the whims of robed clerics who have never known the sting of a needle on un-thimbled fingers. It is understandable to the modern reader that many people may not be too quick to change their New Year’s celebration from April to January. That was not the case in the late 16th century.
Those who marked the completion of a revolution by the Earth around the Sun on April 1st were probably burned as heretics. However, those who marked the start of a New Year as being something dateable but clearly beyond the understanding of man as taking place on April 1st were considered a little bit backwards. Foolish even. And so the birth of April Fool’s day, when children the Western world over point to their parent’s loafers and say “Your shoe is untied.” and the parent, knowing that he has no shoe strings on his loafers, looks down anyway to the laughter of the child. There is a meta-fool in here somewhere.
If there is any doubt, I made all of the above up. Happy April Fool’s Day, and thanks for reading. I’ll get back to posting about food soon.