APRIL FOOL’S DAY – What does it represent?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 31, 2004

By SUE ELLEN ROSS – Staff Reporter

Tomorrow is April 1, the infamous day that family, friends and acquaintances play practical jokes upon each other.

April Fool’s Day does not have a clear history, as you would find in other holidays. But it has been perpetuated throughout the centuries, no small feat for a day that makes no sense.

No one has been able to determine exactly the ‘first’ April Fool’s Day. The nearest point in time that can be traced back to the tradition is in France in 1582.

Before then, the New Year was celebrated for eight days, beginning March 25. The last day of the festivities was April 1.

The Gregorian Calendar was then introduced, and the New Year began on January 1. Many people of that time were not open to change, and refused to observe the new calendar. They continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1.

These folks were considered ‘fools’ due to their stubbornness to comply with the rest of the population. The continued harassment carried on to develop a tradition of playing pranks on the first day of April.

It became such a popular custom that it spread to England and Scotland in the 18th Century. It later came to America, observed by both the English and French colonies.

And it continues today.

“I never knew where this came from, but my brother, Jerry, and I always did April Fools jokes,” said Don Bateman of New Orleans.

When they were youngsters, the two brothers woke up early on April Fool’s Day to do their playful deeds. Family members were the targets.

Examples of their mischief included tying shoelaces together (on mismatched shoes,) taking off labels on canned goods, setting all the clocks in the house an hour ahead, and switching keys on family members’ keychains.

The Bateman men have graduated to bigger things. As adults, they only prank each other, but that seems to be enough to keep the competition alive.

They try to ‘best’ each other year after year, according to Don Bateman.

“Last year, Jerry ordered a lot of food to be delivered to my house. Not just pizzas, this was from an expensive restaurant,” he said. “It was dinner for four, but it was a five-course meal.”

Of course, Jerry had to make a small down payment, but he sent the meal COD. Since he is a respected New Orleans businessman, the restaurant took him seriously.

When the meal arrived, Don was in shock. The COD tab was exorbitant.

“Jerry and his wife showed up about 15 minutes after the food came, acting very innocent,” said Don. “They said they were in the neighborhood, decided to stop by, and did we want to go out to eat?”

Don has a revenge plan in the making for tomorrow’s special day, but hasn’t told anyone what it entails. “I’ve been planning this all year,” he said. “I’m going to get him.”

Although not everyone is like the Bateman brothers, there are always going to be a few jokesters around. So beware.

If you find yourself at the receiving end of an April Fool’s Day prank, just grin and bear it. And remember, there’s always next year to take revenge.