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When fools rush in

April Fools Day is not far away and a celebration of laughter and jokes celebrated in many countries around the world including Bulgaria.There will be no false pieces of news from Quest Bulgaria on the day but many news sites will be carrying some hilarious articles, which many will read and take as gospel and many will find hard to spot.

Fool’s Origins

The exact origins of April Fool's Day are shrouded in mystery, although most historians agree that it was linked to the New Years Day celebrations, which under the old Julian calendar fell on 25th March and lasted for eight days ending on April 1st – possible at 12 noon. In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar to unify the celebration of Easter. The new calendar was not adopted immediately by every nation, the British Empire did not adopt it until 1752 and Bulgaria stated to use it even later in 1916. Many people continued to celebrate in the old way by giving gifts on April 1, whilst progressive supporters of the new calendar were celebrating New Year’s Day on January 1 and  ridiculed those ‘fools’ who continued to celebrate in the old way. They became the butt of many jokes and fools errands, which lead to the celebration of April Fools Day. This type of stalking evolved, over time, into a tradition of prank-playing on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to the UK in the eighteenth century and was later introduced to the British and French American colonies. April Fool's Day thus developed into an international fun fest with different nationalities specialising in their own brand of humour at the expense of their friends and families.

Bulgarian Fools

Bulgarian historians say that the month of April was an erratic month with unpredictable weather and thus named it the Day of the Lie. This introduced much hilarity and prank playing, which is consistent with the way other countries celebrate this event. The lies are more distortions of the truth - mild, humorous and easy to spot with plenty of humour and jokes rather than anything offensive or misleading. In more recent decades the Bulgarian media have joined in with stories of Chinese billionaires wanting to buy the Bulgarian town of Parardzhik because of its rice plantations .

Bulgarian Jokes

Bulgarian humour today does have more in common with British humour, however many of the jokes and pranks especially those played out on April Fools Day are often modern versions of traditional folklore stories, which include traditional folklore characters like Hitar Petar (Clever Peter) and Nastradin Hodja (Hitar Petar’s protagonist). Nasreddin Hojda, came into being during the time of the Ottoman rule. He was a philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. The two characters were always trying to outwit each other and in jokes today they are placed in present-day situations.

The mythical old couple from Western Bulgaria, Voute and Pena feature in jokes that highlight their constant squabbles over sex. One joke tells of how Voute came home and said to Pena: “Granny, take your clothes off!” Pena was a bit shocked, but she obeyed. She took off her dress but Voute insisted that she continued. And when she was completely naked, Voute looked at her and said: “I wonder what the Americans see in striptease!”

For years, jokes have compared Bulgarians and their way of life with the figurative peculiarities of other nations and this type of joke has become very popular here. Sometimes these jokes feature the Bulgarian in the role of the literary character Bai Ganyo, an individual first invented by one of the country’s favourite writers Aleko Konstantinov in the late 19th century. Bai Ganyo invariably finds some way of showing his superiority over the gallant French, the punctual Germans or the cold and distant English. Bulgarians also laugh at jokes originating from other nations, often placing them in a Bulgarian context. Today there are Bulgarian joke sites on the internet. Jokes in Bulgaria today reflect the changes in Bulgarian society. Once they used to focus on the failings and misjudgement of Communist leader Todor Zhivkov, whereas today feature the “champions” of the criminal underworld – the Bulgarian mafia or “mutri,” as they are known in Bulgarian.