April Fools' Day

On February 25, 2021 12:41 PM, "Stephen Williamson" wrote:

Subject: April Fools' Day - query on its background by Joseph at coffee this morning

Hi all

While it's part of old tradition, it seems to also be associated with Lady Day (that angel's announcement to Mary) and Easter.

Here we go, with some definite dates

  1. 321 AD Constantine declares Sunday in all his cities to be a Rest day, a Sabbath. At the same time, Holy Week at Easter time is established by church communities throughout Europe, replacing old pagan customs.
  2. In 525AD, a chap named Dionysius in Rome set up a 100 year calendar of coming dates, so every community could plan when to celebrate Easter, in association with other communities. It also thus established the year number for the year, in the process. Like most new things, it was a bit slow to get accepted, communities had their own ideas, (and the Muslims and Jews didn't agree with it much). 😉
  3. About 800AD, Charlemagne promoted the concept of BC (Before Christ) when numbering earlier years, following a history book published by a chap named Bede in England using this new Easter Dates system.

But on what day then to change the year number, that became the issue. This, from what I can see, is probably the source of April Fools' Day, everywhere.

March 25 was the traditional Roman date of the Spring Equinox that ended winter, established in 45BC by Julius Caesar. At a government level it was used to close off the old tax year, and to herald the start of spring. According to an article in Wikipedia, in most European towns New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25 (also celebrating Lady Day-the Annunciation, and Easter week), with a holiday that in some areas of France, specifically, ended on 1 April. Those who celebrated New Year's Eve on 1 January (the original Roman New Year's Day) made fun of those who celebrated on 1 April by the invention of April Fools' Day.

Most nations of Western Europe officially adopted 1 January as New Year's Day during the Renaissance in the 1500s. France changed to 1 January from 1564, most of Germany did so from 1544, the Netherlands from 1556 or 1573 according to sect, Italy (not being united) did so on a variety of dates, Spain and Portugal from 1556, Sweden, Norway and Denmark from 1599, Scotland from 1600, and Russia from 1725.

England (who had adopted Lady Day in 1155), Wales, Ireland and Britain's American colonies adopted 1 January in 1752 combining it with the switch from Julian to Gregorian calendars which happened the same year. I've at times wondered if it was a factor in the American War of Independence – September 3 becoming September 14 brought on the cry (according to my Dad who learned it at school) "Give us back our 11 days".

Talk about daylight saving issues and all the emotion involved, imagine having "day number" and "year number" saving issues.

Australia didn't have to bother, well, we weren't settled until 1788. And although the states worked using calendar years, as a quirk of the legislation in September 1915, the Federal Govt adopted June 30 1916 as the close of its first income tax year.

In the east, the year number apparently used to change on 1 September and this date is still used in the Eastern Orthodox Church for the beginning of the liturgical year.

Blessings Steve

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