Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Happy April Fool's Day!
According to anthropologists and cultural hisorians, April Fool's Day hails back to festivals marking the Vernal Equinox, or Springtime.
Spring is the time of year when the weather becomes fickle, as if Nature is playing tricks on man, and festivals occurring during the Spring (such as May Day) traditionally mirrored this sense of whimsy and surprise. They often involved temporary inversions of the social order. Rules were suspended. Normal behavior no longer governed during the brief moment of transition as the old world died and the new cycle of seasons was born. Raucous partying, trickery, and the turning upside down of status expectations were all allowed. Slaves ruled their masters. Children played tricks on their parents.
Anthropologists note that Spring celebrations of misrule and mayhem, such as April Fool's Day, which would appear at first glance to undermine social values of order and stability, paradoxically actually help to reaffirm these values. The celebrations act as a safety valve, giving people a chance to vent their social antagonisms in a harmless way. In addition, they give people a chance to temporarily step outside of accepted rules of behavior. People can then choose either to voluntarily return to a state of order, thereby reaffirming society's values, or to remain in a state of anarchy. Inevitably, they choose order.