Unlike most of the other nonfoolish holidays, the history of April
Fool's Day, sometimes called All Fool's Day, is not totally clear.
There really wasn't a "first April Fool's Day" that can be pinpointed
on the calendar. Some believe it sort of evolved simultaneously in
several cultures at the same time, from celebrations involving the
first day of spring.
The closest point in time that can be identified as the beginning of
this tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new
year was celebrated for eight days, beginning on March 25. The
celebration culminated on April 1. With the reform of the calendar
under Charles IX, the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New
Year's Day was moved to January 1.
However, communications being what they were in the days when news
traveled by foot, many people did not receive the news for several
years. Others, the more obstinate crowd, refused to accept the new
calendar and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1. These
backward folk were labeled as "fools" by the general populace. They
were subject to some ridicule, and were often sent on "fools errands"
or were made the butt of other practical jokes.
This harassment evolved, over time, into a tradition of prank-playing
on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to England
and Scotland in the eighteenth century. It was later introduced to the
American colonies of both the English and French. April Fool's Day
thus developed into an international fun fest, so to speak, with
different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at
the expense of their friends and families.
In Scotland, for example, April Fool's Day is actually celebrated for
two days. The second day is devoted to pranks involving the posterior
region of the body. It is called Taily Day. The origin of the "kick
me" sign can be traced to this observance.
Mexico's counterpart of April Fool's Day is actually observed on
December 28. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the
slaughter of the innocent children by King Herod. It eventually
evolved into a lighter commemoration involving pranks and trickery.
Pranks performed on April Fool's Day range from the simple, (such as
saying, "Your shoe's untied!), to the elaborate. Setting a roommate's
alarm clock back an hour is a common gag. Whatever the prank, the
trickster usually ends it by yelling to his victim, "April Fool!"
Practical jokes are a common practice on April Fool's Day. Sometimes,
elaborate practical jokes are played on friends or relatives that last
the entire day. The news media even gets involved. For instance, a
British short film once shown on April Fool's Day was a fairly
detailed documentary about "spaghetti farmers" and how they harvest
their crop from the spaghetti trees.
April Fool's Day is a "for-fun-only" observance. Nobody is expected to
buy gifts or to take their "significant other" out to eat in a fancy
restaurant. Nobody gets off work or school. It's simply a fun little
holiday, but a holiday on which one must remain forever vigilant, for
he may be the next April Fool!
The origin of this custom has been much disputed, and many theories
have been suggested, e.g. that it is a farcical commemoration of
Christ being sent from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to Pilate,
from Pilate to Herod, and from Herod back again to Pilate, the
crucifixion having taken place about the 1st of April. Sarted when the
gods wanted to have a day where you could play jokes on people
What seems certain is that it is in some way or other a relic of those
once universal festivities held at the vernal equinox, which,
beginning on old New Year's day, the 25th of March, ended on the 1st
of April. This view gains support from the fact that the exact
counterpart of April-fooling is found to have been an immemorial
custom in India. The festival of the spring equinox is there termed
the feast of Holi, the last day of which is the 31st of March, upon
which the chief amusement is the befooling of people by sending them
on fruitless errands.
It has been plausibly suggested that Europe derived its April-fooling
from the French . They were the first nation to adopt the reformed
Gregorian calendar, Charles IX in 1564 decreeing that the year should
begin with the 1st of January. Thus the New Year's gifts and visits of
felicitation which had been the feature of the 1st of April became
associated with the first day of January, and those who disliked or
did not hear about the change were fair butts for those wits who
amused themselves by sending mock presents and paying calls of
pretended ceremony on the 1st of April.
However, it is unlikely that this explanation of April Fool's Day?s
origin is correct. Well before 1582 when King Charles IX of France
brought in the new Gregorian calendar, French and Dutch references
from respectively 1508 and 1539 describe April Fool's Day jokes and
the custom of making them on the first of April.
Though the 1st of April appears to have been anciently observed in
Great Britain as a general festival, it was apparently not until the
beginning of the 18th century that the making of April-fools was a
common custom. In Scotland the custom was known as "hunting the gowk,"
i.e. the cuckoo, and April-fools were "April-gowks," the cuckoo being
there, as it is in most lands, a term of contempt. In France the
person befooled is known as poisson d'avril. This has been explained
from the association of ideas arising from the fact that in April the
sun quits the zodiacal sign of the fish. A far more natural
explanation would seem to be that the April fish would be a young fish
and therefore easily caught.
The Dutch have their own reason. Back in 1572, the Netherlands were
still ruled by the Spain's King Phillip II. There were roaming Dutch
rebels who called themselves Geuzen, after the French "geux", meaning
beggars. On April 1, 1572, they took a small coastal town called Den
Briel. This event was also the start of the general civil rising
against the Spanish in other cities in The Netherlands. General Alva
of the Spanish army couldn't do much. Bril is the Dutch word for
glasses, so on April 1, 1572, "Alva lost his glasses". Dutch people
find this joke so hilarious they still commemorate April the first.
Quotes about April Fool's Day
"April 1st: This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we
are on the other three-hundred and sixty-four." ? Mark Twain
"You couldn't fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life
even if you had an electrified fooling machine." ? Homer Simpson
April Fools' Day: Origin and History
The uncertain origins of a foolish day
April Fools' Day, sometimes called All Fools' Day, is one of the most
light hearted days of the year. Its origins are uncertain. Some see it
as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others
believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar.
New Year's Day Moves
Ancient cultures, including those as varied as the Romans and the
Hindus, celebrated New Year's Day on or around April 1. It closely
follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) In medieval
times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation,
as the beginning of the new year.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian
Calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called
for New Year's Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. That year, France adopted
the reformed calendar and shifted New Year's day to Jan. 1. According
to a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new
date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year's
Day on April 1. Other people began to make fun of these
traditionalists, sending them on "fool's errands" or trying to trick
them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread
Problems With This Explanation
There are at least two difficulties with this explanation. The first
is that it doesn't fully account for the spread of April Fools' Day to
other European countries. The Gregorian calendar was not adopted by
England until 1752, for example, but April Fools' Day was already well
established there by that point. The second is that we have no direct
historical evidence for this explanation, only conjecture, and that
conjecture appears to have been made more recently.
Constantine and Kugel
Another explanation of the origins of April Fools' Day was provided by
Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He
explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine,
when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that
they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused,
allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an
edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an
"In a way," explained Prof. Boskin, "it was a very serious day. In
those times fools were really wise men. It was the role of jesters to
put things in perspective with humor."
This explanation was brought to the public's attention in an
Associated Press article printed by many newspapers in 1983. There was
only one catch: Boskin made the whole thing up. It took a couple of
weeks for the AP to realize that they'd been victims of an April
Fools' joke themselves.
It is worth noting that many different cultures have had days of
foolishness around the start of April, give or take a couple of weeks.
The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25, rejoicing in the
resurrection of Attis. The Hindu calendar has Holi, and the Jewish
calendar has Purim. Perhaps there's something about the time of year,
with its turn from winter to spring, that lends itself to lighthearted
Observances Around the World
April Fools' Day is observed throughout the Western world. Practices
include sending someone on a "fool's errand," looking for things that
don't exist; playing pranks; and trying to get people to believe
The French call April 1 Poisson d'Avril, or "April Fish." French
children sometimes tape a picture of a fish on the back of their
schoolmates, crying "Poisson d'Avril" when the prank is discovered.
April Fools' Day Origins
Claim: April Fools' Day began in the 1500s when the Gregorian
calendar took over from the Julian. Those who forgot the change and
attempted to celebrate New Year's (previously celebrated on the 1st of
April) on the wrong date were teased as "April fools."
Origins: IT has become tradition on the first of April to pull jokes
of the harmless variety on those near and dear to us. We plot and we
scheme, and often the yuks are funnier in our imaginings than how they
play out in reality, but that doesn't stop us from sending the little
kid in us out on a rampage. Even the most staid among us have been
known to indulge in a practical joke or two, so beware of trusting
anyone on that day.
How the custom of pranking on April 1 came about remains shrouded in mystery.
When the western world employed the Julian calendar, years began on
March 25. Festivals marking the start of the New Year were celebrated
on the first day of April because March 25 fell during Holy Week. The
adoption of the Gregorian calendar during the 1500s moved the New Year
to January 1. According to the most widely-believed origin for April
Fools' Day, those who could be tricked into believing April 1 was
still the proper day to celebrate the New Year earned the sobriquet of
April fools. To this end, French peasants would unexpectedly drop in
on neighbors on that day in a effort to confuse them into thinking
they were receiving a New Year's call. Out of that one jape supposedly
grew the tradition of testing the patience of family and friends.
But that's only one theory. Others are:
* The timing of this day of pranks seems to be related to the
arrival of spring, when nature "fools" mankind with fickle weather,
according to the Encyclopedia of Religion and the Encyclopedia
* The Country Diary of Garden Lore, which chronicles the goings-on
in an English garden, says that April Fools' Day "is thought to
commemorate the fruitless mission of the rook (the European crow), who
was sent out in search of land from Noah's flood-encircled ark."
* Others theorize it may have something to do with the Vernal Equinox.
* Some think to tie in with the Romans' end-of-winter celebration,
Hilaria, and the end of the Celtic new year festival.
Wherever and whenever the custom began, it has since evolved its own
lore and set of unofficial rules. Superstition has it that the
pranking period expires at noon on the 1st of April and any jokes
attempted after that time will call bad luck down onto the head of the
perpetrator. Additionally, those who fail to respond with good humor
to tricks played upon them are said to attract bad luck to themselves.
Not all superstitions about the day are negative, though ? fellas
fooled by a pretty girl are said to be fated to end up married to her,
or at least enjoy a healthy friendship with the lass.
In Scotland, an April fool is called an April "gowk" ? Scottish for
cuckoo, an emblem of simpletons. In England, a fool is called a gob,
gawby or gobby. In France, the victim of a hoax is called a "poisson
d'avril," an April fish. ("April fish" refers to a young fish, thus
one easily caught.) The French delight in shouting "Poisson d'Avril!"
at the denouement of the foolery. Some also insist that all pranks
include a fish or at least a vague reference to same within the joke.
Asking someone during a phone conversation to hold the line, then
later returning to the call and inquiring of the victim if there'd
been any bites is a popular groaner. So are pranks which trick the
victim into placing calls to fish shops or the local aquarium.
The media also can't resist getting into the act. Radio personalities
are especially drawn to creating playful hoaxes. The year Canada
introduced a two-dollar coin, pranksters from CHEZ FM fooled listeners
into believing April 1 was the last day the treasury would honor all
the two-dollar bills still in circulation. Local banks and the Royal
Canadian Mint fielded call after call from concerned citizens. That
same year, other radio pranksters had people going through their
pocket change in search of the elusive two-dollar coins which had
mistakenly been minted from real gold.
It's not just the DJs who give into the urge to prank on April Fools'.
Canadian Member of Parliament Sheila Copps was responsible for a
particularly creative leg-pull in 1996. On the respected news show CBO
Morning, she announced that the clock in Ottawa's Peace Tower was
being switched over to digital.
Arguably the best media-generated April fools' joke dates from a
Richard Dimbleby "news report" aired on 1 April 1957 on BBC's
Panorama. It opened with a line about Spring coming early this year,
prompting the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland to be early, too.
Against a video backdrop of happy peasant women harvesting spaghetti
from trees, whimsical claims about the foodstuff's cultivation were
made in a straightfaced manner. Spaghetti's oddly uniform length was
explained as the result of years of dedicated cultivation. The
ravenous spaghetti weevil which had wreaked havoc with harvests of
years past had been conquered, said the report.
More than 250 viewers jammed the BBC switchboard after the hoax aired,
most of them calling in with serious inquiries about the piece ? where
could they go to watch the harvesting operation? Could they buy
spaghetti plants themselves? (For those anxious to try their hand at
homegrown pasta, Panorama producer Michael Peacock offered this
helpful hint: "Many British enthusiasts have had admirable results
from planting a small tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce.")
Although adults get into the spirit of things (ask any zoo worker
about manning the phones on April 1 and having to field endless calls
for Mr. Lyon, Guy Rilla, and Albert Ross), it's the children that seem
to truly celebrate the day with wild abandon. April Fool pranking
between students and teachers is an ongoing battle of wits, with kids
favoring the timeworn standards of a tack on the chair, the "missing
class" (kids hide under their desks when the teacher is momentarily
called out of the room), or a springy fabric snake coiled in a can of
nuts. Not every teacher fights back, but those who do are often
inventive about it. For more than 20 years, one grade school teacher
in Boston comes in early on that day to write the day's assignment
upside down on the blackboard. When her curious students arrive, she
tells them she did it by standing on the ceiling.
The style of April Fools' pranks has changed over the years. Sending
the unsuspecting on pointless errands was an especially prized
practical joke in those earlier post-Julian days. In modern times,
that form of pranking has shifted away from April Fools' merriment and
seemingly become a rite of initiation into many groups, both formal
and informal. New campers are routinely sent on a mission to retrieve
the left-handed smoke shifter from its last borrower by more
experienced campers who then quietly guffaw to themselves as the
tenderfoot wanders about in vain on his quest. Others are often roped
in to add to the hilarity, with each person the newcomer asks pointing
him in towards yet someone else who will further the joke. Rookie
pilots are sent in search of a bucket of prop wash, and new carnies
sent on wild goose chases for the elusive keys to the fairgrounds.
Current tastes seem to run more to funny phone calls and media-driven
extravaganzas. But it's still okay to reach back to older times for
inspiration. Be a traditionalist ? on April 1 send a co-worker to
fetch a tube of elbow grease or 50 feet of shoreline.
Barbara "april fueled" Mikkelson.
But for my point of wiew acording to the Ancient Cultures Greek,
Roman, The Early Middle-East Cultures, Pagans and Persian culture (we
can add several cultures into this clasification easily) has
ceremonies for the spring.Because the spring means fun food and a
better climate generally.So every culture nearly have celebrationsa
for the new spring such as the newyears day.From China to Middle-Asia,
Japan to ?srael or Britian to Greece people have fun for April because
april is nice :) (my opinion is not very important but ? am multi
culturel and only this makes me tell my opinion about the subject.The
Demeterius or an ancient Babylon god or a Paganic Rituel April the
First is a celebration for the Spring, Nature, Our Mother-Earth.if you
need the detailed versions of the japaneese chineese asian mid-east
cristian or antique etc ceremonies pls let me know will be glad to
help you in any way.And thank for this great Question