The origins behind April Fool’s Day are a little sketchy but it is generally understood that it started back in 1582. That was the year that France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian but communication was slow and unreliable so, not everyone switched at the same time.  As a consequence, many priests didn’t realize that the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate the New Year on what was now April 1. People mocked them and even put fish on their backs calling them “poisson d’avril” or April fish, meaning they were easily caught (as young fish are).

Some, however, believe April Fool’s day dates back to Roman times in a holiday known as Hilaria, when people would dress up in disguises. Whatever the roots for the day, it did not come to Britain until the 18th century. Apprentices and servants would be sent on fake errands and even have signs put on their backs (maybe that’s how the whole “Kick me!” thing started).

Of course, why have April Fool’s when here in the Colonies, we had fools all the time.  Take these Boston laws, many still on the books, for example:

  • Duels can be carried out to death on Sunday as long as the governor is present.
  • It is illegal to take a lion to the movies.
  • No gorillas are allowed in the back seat of cars.
  • It is illegal in The Commonwealth of Massachusetts to scare a pigeon.
  • Dogs are forbidden from riding in ambulances. (even to pet hospitals)
  • It is illegal to give beer to hospital patients.
  • At a wake, mourners may eat no more than three sandwiches.
  • It is illegal to bathe unless your doctor gives you a prescription. BUT, it’s also illegal not to bathe before going to bed.
  • Goatees are illegal unless you obtain and pay for a license to wear your goatee in public.  (This is should be the law everywhere!)
  • In Boston, it’s illegal to play the fiddle.  (I wonder how this works for the Boston Pops?)
  • Defacing a milk carton is punishable by a $10 fine in Massachusetts.
  • Tomatoes may not be used in the production of clam chowder.
  • Bullets may not be used as currency.
  • In Boston, it is illegal to eat peanuts in church.
  • Christmas has been illegal in Massachusetts since 1659. If you celebrate Christmas, you will be fined five shillings.
  • Stopping for red lights is not required by law unless they are flashing. (That explains my experiences driving in Massachusetts – MASSHOLES!)
  • And last but not least, remember next time you go to Boston that it is absolutely illegal to detonate a nuclear device in the city of Marlboro. (but not Cambridge or Boston)

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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