Thursday, April 1, 2021

The history of April Fools' Day

  In certain countries, the April Fools' jokes must be made before noon on April 1, otherwise, it is the prankster who becomes the April Fool.


  The origin of the customs of the day is shrouded in mystery. Some believe it is likely to be a relic of festivities held to mark the vernal equinox. These celebrations of the first days of spring began on the 25th of March and ended on the 2nd of April. Certainly there is some evidence to suggest that April 1st was observed as a general festival in pagan Britain.

  More commonly, the customs are associated with the switch to the Gregorian calendar in France during the sixteenth century.

  Historically, many parts of the world celebrated April 1st as New Year's Day - due to its relationship with the start of Spring.

  France was one of the first countries to adopt January 1 as their official New Year's Day by decree of Charles IX in 1564. This was before the 1582 adoption of the Gregorian calendar.

  The gifts and traditions that had been the feature of the 1st of April switched to January 1st. However, many people either refused to accept the change or did not hear about the news for several years. Those who still celebrated April 1 were seen as 'fools' by the general populace, were fair game to be the butt of pranks and tricks, and  were known as a "poisson d'avril" or "April fish."

  The traditions spread to England and Scotland in the eighteenth century and were brought to the American colonies by the English and French.

  The tradition of April Fools' Day, also known as All Fools' Day, is observed in many countries on April 1.

  Generally the aim of the day is to play a practical joke on a victim who becomes known as an April Fool. The practical jokes can range from simple to elaborate. Whatever the trick, the prankster usually ends it by shouting to his victim, "April Fool!"

April Fool's day around the world


  In Scotland, April Fool's Day is celebrated over two days - day one is called Taily Day, and the second day is devoted to pranks involving the buttocks. The "kick me" sign can be traced back to Taily Day.


  Mexico's equivalent to April Fool's Day is on December 28th. Originally, the day was a somber remembrance of the slaughter of the innocent children by King Herod, though over the years, it has evolved into a light-hearted commemoration involving pranks and tricks.


  In France, the April fool is known as 'poisson d'avril' (April fish). It is not known what exactly the fish refers to, but it may be related to the sun leaving Pieces (the fish) at the start of April. A part of the tradition in France was the placing of dead fish unknowingly on the backs of friends. Today, real fish have been replaced with fish-shaped paper shapes that children try to sneak onto the back of their friends' shirts. Shops and bakeries also offer special fish-shaped sweets.


  The Dutch have separate reasons for celebrating the 1st of April. In 1572, the Netherlands were under Spanish rule. On April 1, 1572, Dutch rebels seized the town of Den Briel. This marked the start of the general civil uprising against the Spanish across the Netherlands. The Duke of Alba was the commander of the Spanish Army at the time, and he could not prevent the uprising from gathering momentum. Bril is the Dutch word for glasses, so it was said that "Alba lost his glasses." The Dutch commemorate this with jokes and humor on the first of April.

  About the author: Toby Shaw's interest is in researching and writing on the history, background,  and customs of important national and public holidays around the world. Office Holidays lists important national and public holidays around the world in a calendar format. All featured holidays have detailed background information. Visit for more details on hundreds of other holidays.

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