Archaeologists from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdoom (UK) have finally found evidence that may confirm the real origin of April Fool’s Day.
The popular tradition has been adopted worldwide but there hasn’t been any clear evidence that states how it came to be. Many historians theorize that the tradition is linked to the Hilaria festivals, celebrated by the Roman Empire (476 A.D.) before the fall to commemorate the salvation of “Attis,” a young man devoted to the great goddess Cybele.
This was a festival full of laughter and rejoicing were the spectators dressed up in costumes as they celebrated. However, is not till recently that it has been discovered the possible relationship between “April Fool,” or “Fool’s Day,” and the festival.
According to the archaeologist and professor of the University of Cambridge, Ammus Faukenburg, they have found concise evidence that the festival of Hilaria could indeed be related to this well known custom. “Our discoveries will for sure change the world’s perception of the innocent April fools day celebration,” he refrained. While he is yet to share the complete details of their findings, he explained what their findings reveal.
“Thanks to the new discovered proof, we can have a better understanding of how it all came to be. It is now known that the name given, April Fool’s or Fool’s Day, could in fact, not have been given due to the activities celebrated at the festival, but by the occurrences at the last Hilaria Festival”, remarked Wira Layan, an archaeology student.
According to the research, devoted Romans built a temple and prepared a festival that took place every year in the day of the goddess’ arrival, April 1st. All the people of the Empire were invited for a joyous celebration. Since men and women from North to South and East to West assisted, the ones who opposed the goddess ran rampant through the streets of Rome, all in costumes mixed into the crowd.
Faukenburg expresses that the goddess Cybele dominated Phrygian religious life. “Phrygian was a civilization established between the twelfth and seventh centuries B.C. Romans began to worship Cybele, since they recognized her similarity to goddesses already known to them, but still they classified her as a foreign goddess. Thereafter she became to the Romans, the great mother goddess, the mother of gods, beasts, and human beings.Therefore some believed, she was a pagan and not a real goddess; moreover, they would not praise a sinful mortal.”
During the festival, special sports matches, banquets, and plays took place on that day. There was also a series of games played to honor the goddess and to prove their intelligence and bravery. Among the games the most popular became “The Riddle Game.”
“It seemed like a fun harmless game, but according to the documentation gathered it’s what triggered a series of massive events…” Faukenburg explained.
The game consisted in figuring out the riddles written on a card, placed in the center of the town square. Each player took turns to pick a riddle, and those who couldn’t guess the riddle in an hour would be cataloged a fool for the rest of the year.
“It was the first year this game was introduced, therefore everyone was interested in playing. It challenged their wisdom and pride, they wanted to prove they were not fools.” he added. “They were not real riddles, they were intended to not be figured out.”
One by one, the players disappeared after an hour and their bodies were found several hours later mutilated and distributed along the streets. The curious thing is that each victim was wearing a jackal mask, with the riddle imprinted on their chest and a card written with blood, that read:
“Qui quaerebant vobis problema, factum solvit magno, ut falso deo iudicare, quia tu es vere ac desperado stultus.” (thee who sought the riddle, paid a great deed, to a fake god you plead, for thou art hopeless and truly a fool.)
After that year, the festival was no longer celebrated. Instead, there was a vigil to remember the unfortunate victims of the mass assassinations; where they played pranks among themselves to rejoice their spirits. No one knew for sure who were the ones behind the crimes, but speculations led to believe “it was a scheme among the rebels nonbelievers.”
The historians state that it is still not certain if these discoveries “prove the origin of this day,” but one thing is sure, this gives a whole new vision of what we call today, April Fool’s Day.
“We will keep this in mind next time we are pranking someone on this day.”