Ahh, April Fools’ Day – an international holiday to celebrate the existence of the common idiot. To think that this glorious day of days owes itself to a rubber duck, a keg of beer and 33 half-eaten raccoons. God bless April 1st.
Before it became the well-loved day that it is now, April Fools’ Day actually started back in Roman times as a celebration for the village idiot. They called it Deus Ex Stupidia. For all of you non-Latin speakers out there, it translates loosely as, “A time to give thanks for all those people I am better than.” The Romans – being the clever little Russell Crowe wannabes that they were – realized they would not have the self-esteem needed to rule most of the Western world if it weren’t for all the slow-witted mouth breathers running around with their togas on backward to make fun of.
Once a year, the smarter Romans would throw a huge party outside of Rome, inviting every single idiot they could find. While the morons congregated among each other on the rolling countryside, the rest of Rome partied like all Hades in the city – getting drunk and daring each other to pants Caesar, but always keeping the memory of the dopes on the hill in their hearts. As time passed, the smarter Romans realized that it was fun to trick the poor fools out of a good time, and they did it every year (except for 140 B.C., but we won’t talk about that gray April morn).
As the Roman Empire fell, the Christians rushed to fill the void and incorporated the holiday, changing the name to “day of the foolish pagan.” The Christians added their own unique twist. They cut out the wild Dionysian parties and made it a day of ridicule and derision, where they taunted the pagans with childish name calling and crude pranks – like the flaming donkey doo in front of the hut gag. This went on unchanged for a while until all the pagans had been converted and there was no one left to belittle. It enjoyed a brief rebirth with the rise of Protestantism. But since Catholics and Protestants both think of each other as idiots, the holiday seemed to blend in with the other 365 days of rude names and flaming donkey poop. An interesting side note here: The Catholics called only one specific group of Protestants morons, and it eventually got shuffled around over the years into the word “Mormon.” It’s funny how these things happen.
A lot of other stuff happened that was sort of crucial, but we can skip it for the sake of time and clarity. What’s really important is that April Fools’ Day evolved into the holiday that we know and love on April 1, 1866. Joe Gruberman, a lemur rancher in Ogdenville, Virginia, got into a whole mess of trouble with – you guessed it – a rubber duck, a keg of beer and 33 half-eaten raccoons. It is truly a wondrous story filled with many a twist and turn, romance and violence, death and destruction. It all ends with good ol’ Joe slapping his forehead, smiling a big hokey smile and saying, “Well, I’ll be an April fool.”
And so it is still known today as April Fools – the day for the idiot who can’t decipher the hieroglyphics on the ATM machine at the grocery store, for the guy who leaves his turn signal on for hours before actually turning, and for the lady who insists she has exact change for her purchase if she could just extract it from the black hole that is her fake alligator skin purse. It’s for all those folks you see on Jerry Springer, for the people who like stock car racing and soap operas. You’re stupid, but we love you for it. So remember, when you see these people out on the street, wandering around aimlessly with that blank stare in their eyes and a finger up their nose, shake their hand, smile, and say, “Thank you for making my life seem a whole helluva lot better. Please, don’t drool on me.”
Steven Ruszczycky is a sophomore English and biopsychology major.