A Reason to Love April Fool’s: Haters Have Hated On It For 300 Years
"What an abuse of precious Time; what a Profanation!"
Yeah, it's April Fool's Day. Surprise!
If you, like me, hate April Fool's Day, let me give you a reason to love it. You, in your hatred, connect with a long-line of similar haters down through the ages. April Fool's Day has been a thing for perhaps 450 years, at least in Flemish tradition, and I'd guess some people have been hating it every stupid April 1st.
Take Samuel Sewall, future chief justice of Massachusetts. He hated on April Fool's Day in 1708. 1708!
"What an abuse of precious Time; what a Profanation!" Sewall cried, according to a Boston history blog.
He went on to relate the kinds of hijinks that kids got up to in those days, before Tumblr. They would tell a man, for example, that "his Shoes were unbuckled (when they were indeed buckled) and then he would stoop down to buckle them; and then he was an April Fool."
Oh snap! That is cold, yo. I love how you can feel the rage in the parenthetical, (when they were indeed buckled). That's almost as bad as the old XYZ trick (eXamine Your Zipper, for the uninitiated).
In this letter to two schoolmasters, he called upon them to shake the practice out of their pupils: "Insinuate into your Scholars, the defiling and provoking nature of such a Foolish practice; and take them off from it."
He was right of course. This is all a foolish practice. But it's also the sort of thing that reminds me of the three-dimensional reality of the people of history. They weren't just chief justices, they were also humans who got punked by kids in the street.
Hat tip: Yoni Appelbaum, who on this day alone may allow me to call him Broni Snapplebaum.