April Fools' Day origins & folklore
If this year's first day of April is like any other, you'll have to keep your guard against the practical jokes that others can play on you, much to your annoyance and their delight. But what are the origins of the strange cult of April Fools' Day?
There are a couple of explanations put forward by scholars to account for the trickery that takes place throughout much of the Western world on April 1.
One theory suggests that, because of the tradition of sending someone on 'a fool's errand', the practice might derive from the Biblical story in which Jesus Christ was sent uselessly back and forth between Annas, Caiphas, Pontius Pilate and King Herod, each of them not being able to resolve what to do with him.
Sending people on fools' errands has a long history. These days a teacher might send an unruly pupil to another teacher with the message, "Please give this boy a long weight". All that the lad gets, of course, is a long wait. Or else he might be sent to the Industrial Arts teacher for a "left-handed hammer". Either way, the joke's on the boy, who probably deserves it.
In merry olde England the errand was for a gullible person to be sent to the saddler's for a 'pen'orth (penny's worth) of salad oil'. In this ruse, the pun is between 'salad oil' and the French 'avoir de la salade', to be flogged. So the poor dupe got a beating for his innocent pains ...