April Fool’s Day - April 1st
No one can agree on the exact origin of ‘April
It’s probably a prank itself that the day of practical jokes has
survived this long. The date April
1st may have been chosen in relation to the Vernal Equinox, or the
first day of spring. This is the
time of year where the weather becomes very unpredictable and could be as warm
as summer one minute, or cold and rainy the next.
There are similar celebrations in Rome and India during this
time of year. In Rome, the
Festival of Hilaria celebrates the
resurrection of the god Attis. It
falls on March 25th and today it is called ‘Roman Laughing
Day.’ Attis was a historical
figure that led a life similar to Jesus, and was said to have died for
other’s sins. Hilaria is celebrated on March 25th, nine months
before the birthday of Attis on December 25th. In India, the Huli Festival celebrates the arrival of spring. It falls on March 31st and people play jokes and
smear colors on each other.
Most people believe that the origin of April Fools
originated in France. Before the
use of the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s celebrations were on April 1st. New Year’s Day was changed to
January 1st and those who still celebrated it on April 1st
were called April fools. French peasants would drop in on neighbors on this day
and dupe them into thinking that it was a New Year’s call. From this came the idea of testing the
limitations of family and friends through practical jokes. If you were the victim of a joke in
France you were called a ‘poisson d’avril,’ or April Fish
because a young naive fish is easily caught. It was common practice to hook a cardboard fish on the back
of someone as a joke. The symbol
of a fish could have been used because it represents the zodiac sign of
In England jokes were played only in the morning. Fools were called ‘gobs’ or
‘gobby’ and the victim of a joke was called a
‘noodle.’ In Scotland
you were called an April ‘Gowk’, another name for cuckoo bird. In Portugal, April Fools falls on
the Sunday and Monday before lent, and many people throw flour at their
friends. In today’s day and
age, jokes are supposed to end at noon.
Any jokes pulled after that, are said to bring the person playing them
bad luck. It is also bad luck if you
don’t respond to a joke played on you with good humor. Just remember this is a day for
laughter, whether it’s towards yourself or someone else.
Additional Learning Links for April Fool’s
Urban Legends Reference
Click on ‘Holidays’ at the end of this page and
you’ll find all sorts of interesting facts you never knew. Read theories about how this holiday
came about and learn about some of the greatest hoaxes ever.
Reading Level: Moderate
Someone asked these guys how April Fools came about and,
wouldn’t you know it, they have some cool facts. Find out why people play pranks on each
other and how this strange day came about.
Stuff Works, Inc.
Reading Level: Hard
What exactly is a hoax? See what the top ten April
Fool’s jokes of all time are.
Read about hoaxes from pre-1700 all the way to 2001.
Source: Alex Boese
Reading Level: Moderate