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April 1, 2024 25 mins

Shereen talks about the historical significance of the first day of April and how it became the longest running bit of all time.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Al Zone Media.

Speaker 2 (00:05):
Hello, everybody, welcome to it could happen here. This is
Shreen and today is a very special day. It is
the first of April aka April fools Day. Someone may
or may not have been born on this day. But
little known fact that I didn't know about until I
was an adult was that the first of April is

(00:25):
historically Syrian New Year. That's right. I learned about this
as a Syrian in my mid twenties, so it's not
exactly very well known, but when I learned about it,
I got obsessed with it. So I'm going to talk
about that today and just the history of April Fool's
Day and how it became April Fool's Day, in particular

(00:46):
because originally, as I said, it started as the Syrian
New Year, and many researchers consider it the oldest recorded
holiday in the history of the Near East. The Syrian
calendar is also considered one of the last remaining ancient
calendars that is still celebrated. Up until now, he had
unus no relation, but he's a doctor in archaeology in
Ancient Languages at the University of Damascus. He said that

(01:09):
the celebrations of the New Year coincided with the celebrations
of the arrival of spring, and they began the day
of the vernal equinox, and they continued until the first
of April AA Syrian New Year's Day. This day is
associated with the celebration of the end of the reigning
season and the start of fertility and the growth of
crops and fruits, as the celebrations were accompanied with religious

(01:33):
rituals in which offerings were made. Unis also noted that
the Syrian calendar is related to is Ishtad, who is
the first mother goddess, the goddess of life, the morning
and evening star. At the same time, the ancient texts
describe Ashtar as in her mouth lies the secrets of life.
The word Astar comes from the Akkadian language. She is

(01:56):
known as Anana or Nana in Sumerian. And she was
the first deity for which we have written evidence of,
as well as the world's first goddess of love and war,
and she had a lover named Tamuz. In ancient Mesopotamia,
which roughly corresponds to modern Iraq, parts of Iran, Syria, Kuwait,
and Turkey, love was a powerful force capable of upending

(02:20):
earthly order and producing sharp changes and status. And Ashtar
definitely deserves an episode all for herself. She's completely fascinating
and needs more than just a blurb. But I had
to at least mention her, and maybe one day I'll
do an episode about her. But that's a Shtar for
you for now. There are other researchers, though, that have
criticized the validity of April first as the Syrian New Year.

(02:43):
Because of this, the origin of the Syrian New Year's
a key to celebration aki tu it has sparked some controversy,
with debates fueled by history and religion. The validity of
the ritual is disputed because it is not widely celebrated
locally and its relevance is not generally accepted by academia.

(03:04):
Some would argue that the celebration of Syrian New Year
is useless. Among them is Bashar Khalif, who is a
history researcher specializing in the Mashtrich. Calif says that celebrating
a key to quote stems from nostalgia and an attempt
to escape the present. So what are the origins of
a key to? A key to marks the Assyrian and

(03:27):
Babylonian New Year, and it is observed the first of
April and last twelve days. The Acadians and Chaldeans also
have celebrated the holiday. Doctor Joseph is Atune fu fact
z Atune means olive, what a cute name. Doctor Joseph
z Atune is an expert in Syrian history, and he
is one of the historians who considers a key to

(03:47):
Quote the oldest recorded holiday in the history of the
Near East. The earliest reference to this holiday dates back
to twenty five hundred BC in Er you Are Er
was an important Sumerian city state in ancient Mesopotamia, located
at the site of modern Tel l Moreyed and South
Irax dir Kar Governoran. According to Syrian researchers, the Akitu

(04:11):
holiday was held for the Sumerian moon god Nana. For
the Babylonians, it chronicled the god Marduk's victory over the
goddess Timayat. During the Babylonian era, the first four days
were traditionally reserved for religious rituals. Babylonians used to offer
prayers and sacrifices and recite the anuma Alish, which is

(04:34):
the Babylonian epic of creation. The remaining days would include
social and political rituals. According to the researcher Razad and Majidi,
the Sumerians observed this holiday on March twenty first of
every year, and this marked the start of the Sumerian
New Year. On the other hand, Semitic peoples like the Acadians, Babylonians, Assyrians,

(04:55):
they celebrate Akitu on April first. What is this word?
A I asked the same thing. I asked the mom
the same thing, because I'm still a child who thinks
my mom knows everything, but she doesn't. She doesn't know
what that means. And she's ever even heard the word,
and she didn't know the origin of a ke to.
And apparently there's no consensus among historians on the exact

(05:17):
meaning of this word. However, researcher own Majdi details his
theory in the books Summer Corpus and Prehistoric Religions and Beliefs.
According to m Majidi, the word a key to is
the name of the feast and the place where celebrations
were held. The word appeared in late Sumerian texts as
a key t. The word is then believed to be

(05:41):
of Sumerian origin. The sign uh means rain, key means earth,
and t is a verb meaning to draw near. Thus
it roughly translates to drawing water closer to the earth.
Very poetic. According to jam M Shaheen, numerous ancient scriptures
mention the same aki Ti. For instance, the holiday bears

(06:03):
the name Akitu in Aramaic, Akiti sunonym in Sumerian, Visha
Deshata in Akkadian, and Krabi Nissan in Assyrian. Nissan, by
the way, is April in Arabic. The shah Desheta and
Krabi Nissan are often used in the Levante to mean
head of the year and first of April, respectively. On

(06:25):
the other hand, doctor Mahmud Hossein and Amen wrote that
the celebrations were held at a specific location known as
the House of Celebrations or Akitu, which was outside the city,
So this makes a k to a location as well
a sacred location. In ancient beliefs, the Akitu house refers
to the gods dwelling on earth. The purpose of having

(06:48):
a celebratory feast is to celebrate the gods choosing to
temporarily reside in this city, and the purpose of this
house is to guard and cherish that moment forever. And
even though now the name ni Uisan is used for
what we know as the month of April, the month
of Nissan used to be around the time of the
vernal equinox, which starts around March twenty first. The vernal

(07:10):
equinox is still celebrated throughout Greater Iran as Noruz, which
means new day on March twenty first. However, in ancient Assyrian,
Acadian and Babylonian traditions, the spring festival was celebrated in
the first days of the month known as Nissan, and
the calendar adopted by ancient Assyrians had the month Nissan
at the beginning of the calendar year, which lends to

(07:31):
the term Jrabi Nissan or the first of Nissan. So
let's talk about the Syrian calendar and April Fools Day
what we all came here for. Well, in fact, about me,
my birthday is today April Fool's Day. Wow. And I
didn't even know about this history, as I said, until
I was an adult person in my mid twenties. But
once I learned about this history, especially as a Syrian

(07:52):
person who is really proud to be Syrian, It really
made me appreciate my birthday and my ancestry a lot
more because growing up, not gonna lie, it's honestly a
pain in the ass birthday. Lots of empty gift boxes
and people saying Happy Birthday, April fools, and just me
like rolling my eyes and grimacing throughout the entire day.

(08:15):
There is one particularly traumatic memory I have from middle
school where I was given a box of chocolates and
the joke was that the chocolates tasted like shit. And
I know this because I tasted a chocolate and then
I immediately spit it out. And to this day, I
don't know what that chocolate was made out of, and
I hope I never find out. But anyway, it's just
a weird ass birthday to have. You know what else

(08:37):
is weird? Weird ass ads? Listen and we are back, Okay.
Doctor z a Tune believes it is more accurate to
call the calendar that starts at April first as a

(09:00):
Syrian calendar rather than Assyrian, since all in Syria and
Mesopotamia adopted it. He also thinks that the ancient Syrian
calendar begins on the first of April, and that quote
this calendar was present and endured in multiple Syrian civilizations,
including the kingdoms of Ugadit, Elba, Mai, Palmyra, and Damascus

(09:21):
until the early twentieth century. Syrians traditionally began their year
in April first, but transitioned to the Western calendar during
the period of the French mandate, so it actually wasn't
even that long ago that April First marked the beginning
of the new year in Syria. The rituals of the
Syrian New Year are linked to April Fools. There are
rituals aimed at, quote, humbling the king, which would start

(09:45):
from the fifth day of the celebrations. Lying was also
a big part of the celebrations, as the king would
abdicate his throne in favor of a criminal sentenced to death.
That part is crazy to me. Enslaved people also became
mass and people disguise themselves in costumes and masks to
hide their identities until they awoke from the lie the

(10:06):
next morning. So the whole day would be a farce essentially,
and you would all knowingly live a lie until the
next day everything is suddenly back to normal again. Hanna Sumi,
head of the Syriac Cultural Association, in Syria said, after
the common folk occupies the king's throne, he blends in

(10:28):
with the people incognito. Chaos ensues in Babylon, and on
the first of April, the king is found and joy prevails,
and that is the origin of April Fool's Day. The
king did not truly disappear, It was but a charade.
There's also another reason the first of April is associated
with an April fool. Doctor Shaheen writes. Until fifteen sixty

(10:50):
four a d. The Syrian calendar was adopted in most countries.
In France, celebrations started on March twenty first and ended
on April first, just as the Assyrian and Babylonians did
thousands of years ago. After King Charles the ninth adopted
the new Gregorian calendar, celebrations began on December twenty fifth

(11:10):
and ended January first, which we now all know is
the beginning of the new year. However, some of the
publics still continued to celebrate on April first, and the
people who still held on to this tradition became the
target of mockery by the nobility for still believing in
April Fool's Day. Other historians speculate that April Fools Day
dates back to fifteen eighty two, when France switched from

(11:33):
the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for
by the Council of Trent in fifteen sixty three. In
the Julian calendar, as well as the Syrian calendar and
also the Hindu calendar, the new year began with the
Spring equinox on April first, but people were slow to
get the news or they failed to recognize that the
start of the new year had moved to January first.

(11:55):
Those who continued to celebrate the new year during the
last week of March through April first became the butt
of jokes and hoaxes and were called April Fools. These
pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and
being referred to as april fish in French, which is possand'avril.
I can't say that correctly, and I can't even attempt

(12:16):
to do a French accent, but it's the april fish.
You refer to as an april fish and symbolizing a young,
easily caught fish and a gullible person. So it's kind
of like an elevated kick me sign on your back.
Interestingly enough, fish are also considered a lucky symbol in
many areas of the world, and are also important to
many New Year's traditions. There was an opinion piece written

(12:38):
a few years ago about the marginalization of the holiday
of aki To as part of a quote systemic battle
against ancient civilizations. Doctor Shaheen noted that this prohibition has
continued until recently. Different regimes and religious figures prohibited it
because it is a pagan feast and has rituals, prayers,
and texts that offend the fought of the monotheistic religions.

(13:02):
He added that aki To is witnessing a renaissance among
the Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac communities abroad, particularly as a
result of religious freedom. He asks, will Akichu return or
is it merely a trend that will fade away once again.
Many cultures still recognize the significance of April first, including

(13:24):
the Assyrians. Despite being scattered across the world, Assyrians preserve
their history and heritage through holidays like Assyrian New Year
on April first. Assyrian New Year is the spring festival
among the indigenous Assyrians of northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey,
and northwestern Iran. Celebrations involve parades and parties, food, music,

(13:48):
and dancing. Some Assyrians wear traditional costumes, are dressed like
Assyrian royalty and dance for hours. Celebrations take place throughout
Assyria and other areas in the Middle East, along with
some in the United States, Europe, and Australia among the
Assyrian diaspora communities. The modern observance of Aiki to began
in the nineteen sixties during the Assyrian intellectual Renaissance. However,

(14:12):
due to political oppression, the celebrations were largely private until
the nineteen nineties, but the event is still largely celebrated
by Assyrians residing in Syria. Although the Syrian government does
not acknowledge the festival at all, Assyrians still continue with
the celebration. In two thousand and two, Assyrians and Syria

(14:33):
celebrated the event with a mass wedding of sixteen couples
and over twenty five thousand attendees. After the formation of Turkey,
Kabi Nissan, along with no Rus, were banned from public celebration.
Assyrians and Turkey were first allowed to publicly celebrate Kabi
Nissan in two thousand and five, after organizers received permission

(14:54):
from the government to stage the event and light of
democratic reforms adopted in support of Turkey's EU membership bid
Around five thousand people, including large groups of visiting ethnic
Assyrians from Europe, Syria, and Iraq, took part in the
Kabi Nistan celebrations in Turkey. One of the largest Assyrian
New Year celebrations took place in Iraq in two thousand

(15:16):
and eight. Public celebrations were not allowed by Saddam Hussein's
regime prior to the start of the Iraq War. The
event was organized by the Assyrian Democratic Movement ZOA, and
between forty five thousand and sixty five thousand people took
part in the parade. In two thousand and four, George
Ridanovich of the California State Assembly recognized the Assyrian New

(15:38):
Year and extended his wishes to the Assyrian community in California.
This was later followed by a letter from our old
California Governor, Terminator Arnold to the Assyrian community in California,
congratulating them on the annual celebration. I just thought that
was pretty interesting because it is a very modern resurgeence

(15:59):
and like ren aissants of this day so fun facts
and in the United States, almost four million Americans can
trace their roots back to an Arab country located in
the Middle East or North Africa, and this is according
to the Arab American Institute. Each year, many school districts, cities,
and states observe Arab American Heritage Month in April. It's

(16:22):
meant to honor the historic achievements and cultural contributions of
Arab Americans throughout the nation. On April first, twenty twenty two,
April was officially designated as National Arab American Heritage Month
by the federal government. The movement for this recognition was
first started in nineteen eighty nine, when Congress declared October
twenty fifth as a day to honor Arab American heritage

(16:45):
and called it National Arab American Day, but the Arab
American community pushed for further recognition. In twenty seventeen, a
media outlet called Arab America, as well as the nonprofit
Arab America Foundation, launched an initiateive that called all lawmakers
to make April National Arab American Heritage Month. Arab America

(17:06):
said that April was chosen because it did not conflict
with other observances that highlight marginalized communities, and that the
month symbolizes hope, growth and new beginnings. And yeah, sure
that can be true with spring starting and flowers blooming
and so on, but I think there might be a
little more symbolism there as well. Personally, I think all

(17:27):
national holidays are kind of useless unless you get like
a day off from work, and giving a marginalized community
a day or a month is a rather shallow and
also useless acknowledgment of that community. I mean, Columbus also
has a day himself, and even though many states now
observe it as Indigenous People's Day, sixteen states as well
as the territory of American Samoa still observe the second

(17:48):
Monday in October as the official public holiday exclusively called
Columbus Day. All this is to say that I would
rather lawmakers actually advocate for marginalized communities instead of just
tossing them a day or a few weeks where suddenly
they exist. It is still kind of cute to me
that Arab American Heritage Month is starting today in April

(18:11):
because of all the symbolism. Let's take our second break.
I don't have a clever segue. Oh well, and we
are back. Okay. Where else have we seen April fools

(18:32):
Day in the world. April Fool's Day has a shockingly
global history for a holiday devoted to lies and deception.
Historians have also linked April Fools Day to festivals such
as Hilaria and ancient Rome. Hilaria is Latin for joyful,
and this day was celebrated in ancient Rome at the
end of March by followers of the cult of Sabil.

(18:56):
It involved people dressing up in disguises and mocking fellow
citizens and even magistrates, and it was said to be
inspired by the Egyptian legend of Isis, Osiris and Seth.
There's also speculation that April Fool's Day was tied directly
to the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring
in the Northern Hemisphere, and this is where Mother Nature
fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather. I like that one.

(19:21):
In Latin America, you have few chances to be pranked.
Much of Latin America celebrates Elda de Loos in ascentis,
or day of the Innocence, which is a late December
Catholic feast with an extremely unsilly origin that has now
somehow become a day of jokes and pranks. In Ebbi Elecante, Spain,
they mark this day aka there April Fools Day in

(19:42):
December by having a town wide food fight, complete with
military strategy and historical lore. Then there's the els and
Ferinat's tradition, which is reportedly more than two hundred years
old and involves a mock military style takeover of the
town where the new NEU rulers get to make up
strange laws that others have to abide by, and if

(20:04):
they don't, they get fined and the money goes to charity.
When I was reading this earlier, I was like, oh,
this is the purge, but then it ends up money
goes to charity, and it's like, oh, it's nice. But
so for those cultures, the day to watch out for
is December twenty eighth. In Brazil, however, April first is
still the prank day of choice, and they cut straight
to the chase by Congate Dia das Mantidas or the

(20:27):
Day of Lies. Similarly to Syria, Iran has one of
the oldest April Fool's traditions with the observance of Cisda Badud,
which also has a prank playing element. It is celebrated
on the thirteenth day of the Persian New Year, on
April first or April second. Cisda Badad, which is also
said to have been celebrated as far back as the

(20:47):
fifth century BC, is translated as quote getting rid of thirteen,
so it has an appropriately superstitious air. It's also considered
a spring festival, which ties into other April Fool's predecessors,
like the ancient Roman celebration of Hilaria. April Fool's Day
spread throughout Britain during the eighteenth century. In Scotland, the

(21:10):
tradition became a two day event, starting with quote hunting
the gouk. That's a word gowk. Gouk is a term
for a type of bird, but it's also slang for
a fool on this day pranking. Scot's send unsuspecting gouk's
the people, not the birds on fool's errands, just to

(21:32):
waste their time, and if you don't get goukd there's
always an opportunity for humiliation. The very next day, which
is Tally Day. Tally Day is for a largely harmless
darrier related pranks aka pranks involving your butt, such as
pinning fake tales on someone or sticking Kickney signs on them.

(21:53):
April first in Poland goes about it the same as
any other pro April Fool's place. It's called Prima Prilis.
There is a funny parting phrase for prankers though, that
I thought was worth mentioning, which is Prima aprilis April
Fool's Day. Be careful, you can be wrong, which is
truly like advice to take throughout the entire year. But

(22:15):
what about what we've come to know as the typical
April fools Day pranks. It's not especially surprising that capitalism
took like a fun little day like April Fool's Day
and ran with it, because, as we know, we live
in hell. But in modern times people have gone to
great lengths to create elaborate April fools Day hoaxes. Newspapers,
radio and TV stations, and websites have participated in the

(22:38):
April First tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have
fooled their audiences. A few examples in nineteen fifty seven,
the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record
spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees.
In nineteen eighty five, Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton tricked

(23:01):
many readers when he ran a made up article about
a rookie picture named Sid Finch who could throw a
fastball over one hundred and sixty eight miles per hour.
In nineteen ninety two, National Public Radio ran a spot
with former President Richard Nixon saying that he was running
for president again, Only it was an actor, not Nixon,

(23:23):
and this segment was all an April Fool's Day prank
that caught the country by surprise. In nineteen ninety six,
Taco Bell duped people when it announced that it agreed
to purchase Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and intended to rename it
the Taco Liberty Bell. In nineteen ninety eight, after Burger
King advertised a quote left handed whopper, scores of clueless

(23:45):
customers requested this fake sandwich and then Google also notoriously
hosts an annual April Fool's Day prank that has included
everything from a telepathic search to the ability to play
pac Man on Google Maps. This is a sense that
made me laugh. From History dot com. For the average trickster,
there is always the classic April fools Day prank of

(24:07):
covering the toilet seat with plastic rap or swapping the
contents of sugar and salt containers. I'm sorry I had
to mention that, because like the sugar and salt is
very innocent, But I for one have never heard of
covering the toilet and plastic wrap. That seems cruel and
crazy in History dot com.

Speaker 1 (24:25):
Wow.

Speaker 2 (24:27):
Anyway, Impressively, the joke of April Fool's Day has endured
for centuries, and at this point, to have my life
contribute any part to this joke is an honor. Actually,
I live for bits, and April Fool's Day is basically
the longest running bit of all time. So it was

(24:48):
only right that I was born today and that, my Friends,
is our episode today. I hope you had fun. Now
I'm gonna go do something for my birthday, even though
this is the past, but today is my birthday and
I'm doing something now for you. Anyway. That's it, Bye.

Speaker 1 (25:11):
It could happen here as a production of cool Zone Media.
For more podcasts from cool Zone Media, visit our website
coolzonemedia dot com, or check us out on the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts, you can
find sources for It could happen here, updated monthly at
coolzonemedia dot com slash sources.

Speaker 2 (25:28):
Thanks for listening.

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