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April’s Fools

By Tom Chatfield  

The custom of fooling people on the 1st of April has distinctly misty origins—although we know it relates to the timing of the Vernal equinox (the dates in Spring on which day and night are equal in length) at around this time of year, and to the ancient significance of this equinox as the beginning of the northern hemisphere’s annual cycle of growth.

Misrule, carnival and temporary absurdity have certainly proved among the most enduring of pre-Christian traditions. As far back as the 16th century, Edmund Spenser was to be found complaining in private correspondence that “the queene doth make…

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