Tricking people has become a normal pastime on the first of April. However, the history of April Fools Day is more interesting than that.

For as long as I can remember, my friends and family have been playing tricks and lying to me on the first of April. Some of these tricks have been pretty shocking and frightening. But the origin of April Fools Day is much more than telling someone a lie and watching them “freak out”.

The History of April Fools’ Day

Many people assume the history of April Fools’ Day originated from France, but we don’t know this for sure. In fact, there are a few origins of April Fools Day that circulate within society. Although we see this holiday as a purely frivolous day, it wasn’t always just about fooling people. It was a bit deeper than that, and one of the rumors of origin did indeed come from France.

Some of the historical facts and rumors:

1.  The French Calendar

One story or rumor comes from 1582 when France changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The significance of this comes from the fact that France originally celebrated its New Year on April 1st on the Julian calendar, but when the Gregorian calendar came into use, this changed the New Year to January 1st, as we celebrate the holiday today.

Some people didn’t get the news as quickly as others and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1st. These individuals became known as “April fools” because to others they were jokes. Everyone who did know of the transition played pranks on them and made fun of their ignorance of the change.

2. A published poem in 1561

One belief that completely changes the idea of French origin comes from a poem written by the Flemish writer, Eduard De. Dene. This writer wrote a poem about a man who sent his servant on fake errands all day long on April 1st.

If indeed, this was the first incident considered an April Fools’ joke, it contradicts the origin concerning the French calendar. Supposedly, the French calendar was changed after this poem was written. This is one reason why the history of April Fools Day is such a mystery.

3. Vernal Equinox

Some believe that April Fools’ Day started because of the Vernal Equinox, the start of spring. People of the Northern Hemisphere believed that nature was playing tricks on us by using its unusual weather.

As spring is the transformation of cold into mild weather, the weather itself is often unpredictable, almost as if it’s playing tricks on us. Just when you think it’s getting warmer, springtime throws in a couple of cool days to remind us that winter isn’t quite completely gone yet.

4. Roman Hilaria

There is also the belief that April Fools’ Day originated in Ancient Rome. Those who were members of the Cult of Cybele celebrated Hilaria by mocking the magistrates and dressing up in costumes. This celebration of sorts in March was apparently inspired by Egyptian beliefs in Isis, Seth, and Osiris.

5. April Fools in Scotland

There was also a tradition for April Fools’ Day in Scotland, as it spread throughout Britain. The Scots celebrated the first of April by hunting “the gowk”. It was a two-day event, with the “the gowk hunt” being on the first day.

The “gowk” was a fake bird, also known as a cuckoo bird, which is a symbol for a fool. People were told to hunt down this bird as a joke. The second day was called “Tallie day” where individuals pinned signs, such as “kick me” on other’s derrieres. It seems that as the ideas of April Fools’ spread, the jokes continued to become even more imaginative.

6. Modern April Fools’ Day

Society has gone much farther to celebrate April Fools’ day in modern times. Television stations and radio broadcasts fooled many people with fake announcements to scare and amaze us. All throughout history into modern times, this holiday was observed almost as much or more than other holidays. It was just celebrated in different ways.

Notable April Fools’ Day Pranks

There are a few pranks that should be remembered for their outrageous claims. These April Fools’ Day jokes go far and above simple comedy. Some of the jokes had people scratching their heads in confusion and wondering if the world was going crazy. Let’s take a look at a few notable pranks.

  • The 1950s

Apparently, many people were convinced there was a spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. This is hilarious because we should all know that pasta itself is not grown in any garden. Then again, some people think cotton is man-made, so go figure.

  • 1968

“Fooles Holy day” represented April 1st when everyone was supposed to gather at the Tower Ditch for the “lion washing ceremony”. This became a popular prank, especially for out of towners. Can you imagine a special day for watching the bathing of such wild beasts?

  • 1996

In the year 1996, Taco Bell, a fast-food restaurant, announces that it has purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. This prank is just silly, but it is amusing.

  • 2008

BBC releases clips of flying penguins and publishes a story called, “Miracles of Evolution”.  The story states that Penguins are migrating from the Arctic and moving to the jungles of South America. Believe it or not, some people fall for this prank.

April Fools’ Continues

Although we really don’t know the set date in which this routine came to be, we still enjoy pranking people. It is also a day we celebrate around the globe with colorful antics and amusing jokes. So, today, try to see the origin of April Fools’ Day as a beginning to poking fun at your friends. After all, we need a little hilarity in today’s crisis.

Go out and play that joke, have some fun, and remember to be kind.

References:

  1. https://www.cnn.com
  2. https://www.loc.gov

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