Have you ever wondered about the history of April Fools? Well the origins of this tradition may date back to the common history of two nations which are still in the news today. By some accounts Israel and Iran are at the brink of war and events seem to be spiraling out of control. The history and dynamics surrounding the relationships of these two nations is fascinating and could well be the basis for the tradition of April Fools.
Nowruz, literally “new light” is the name of the Persian new year celebration which lasts twelve days. It is celebrated in the spring and is closely related to the Spring Equinox. Historians say it has been celebrated for at least 3000 years. It is a joyous time of visiting family and friends.
On the 13th day of the New Year the Persian people celebrate Sizdah-bedar. Sizdah-bedar literally means getting rid of 13. It is often associated with bad luck and ill omen. Many Persian families spend the day in the countryside. It is so widely celebrated that some towns seem deserted on this day. This tradition can be traced as far back as the 6th century BC. It is also celebrated in Iraq, Azerbaijan, Central Asia and Armenia. On this day Persian’s play practical jokes on each other and some claim it is the basis for April Fool’s day. It is interesting to note that Sizdah-bedar is strangely absent from much of Persian history after it became part of the Muslim World in the seventh century.
About the same time Sizdah-bedar is first noticed historically in Persian culture the very same day is recorded as a day of infamy in Biblical tradition. In the book of Esther, a Persian named Haman conceives a plan to destroy the Jewish people. As part of his preparations he starts casting Pur (lots) in the 1st month (Nisan) of the 12th year of the Persian king Ahasuerus. He continues with this ritual for 12 months. Then in the 1st month (13th month from when it began), in the 13th year of king Ahasuerus, on the 13th day of the month the king makes Haman’s plan to destroy all the Jews of the kingdom, law. This day was Sizdah-bedar, the very same day which Persians for the last 2500 years have associated with bad luck.
Those familiar with the book of Esther know that the date for the extermination of the Jewish people was set for the13th day of 12th month of the 13th year of king Ahasuerus. It was through the courage of Queen Hadassah (Esther) and her intervention on behalf of her people that a day meant for the destruction of the Jewish people instead became a day of destruction for their enemies. For over 2500 years the 13th– 15th of Adar is remembered as a day of deliverance for the Jewish people in their celebration of Purim.
Ironic, isn’t it, that Sizdah-bedar, the day of getting rid of 13, was the day Haman was given permission to “get rid” of a nation of people who it could be argued consisted of 13 tribes.
So next time April comes around give a thought to one of the greatest April fools of all time. Consider a man who had determined evil upon a whole race of people and ended up reaping what he had sown.
April fools indeed!
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