The story of April Fools’ Day
In some countries, April Fools jokes must be made before noon on April 1, otherwise it is the joker who becomes April Fool.
The origin of the customs of the day is shrouded in mystery. Some believe that it is likely a relic of the festivities that are celebrated to mark the vernal equinox. These celebrations of the first days of spring began on March 25 and ended on April 2. Certainly there is some evidence to suggest that April 1 was observed as a general holiday in pagan Britain.
Most commonly, the customs are associated with the change to the Gregorian calendar in France during the 16th century.
Historically, in many parts of the world April 1 was celebrated as New Year’s Day, due to its relationship with the beginning of spring.
France was one of the first countries to adopt January 1 as its official New Year’s Day, by decree of Charles IX in 1564. This was before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582.
The gifts and traditions that had been the hallmark of April 1 changed to January 1. However, many people refused to accept the change or did not hear the news for several years. Those who still celebrated April 1 were viewed as “fools” by the general population, and fair play as the butt of jokes and tricks was known as “Poisson d’avril” or “April fish.”
The traditions spread to England and Scotland in the 18th century and were brought to the American colonies by both the English and the French.
The tradition of April Fools ‘Day, also known as All April Fools’ Day, is observed in many countries on April 1.
Generally, the goal of the day is to try to play a prank on a victim known as April Fool. The practical jokes can range from simple to elaborate. Whatever the trick, the prankster usually ends up yelling at his victim, “April Fool!”
April Fools Day around the world
Scotland In Scotland, April Fools’ Day is celebrated over two days: the first day is called Taily Day and the second day is dedicated to jokes involving the buttocks. The “kick me” sign dates back to Taily’s day.
Mexico The equivalent in Mexico to the Day of the Innocents is December 28. Originally, the day was a grim reminder of King Herod’s slaughter of innocent children, though over the years, it has grown into a joyous commemoration that includes jokes and tricks.
France 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 rising from Pieces (the fish) in early April. Part of the tradition in France was to unknowingly place dead fish on the backs of friends. Today, real fish have been replaced by fish-shaped paper shapes that children try to hang on the back of their friends’ shirts. Stores and bakeries also offer special fish-shaped sweets.
Netherlands The Dutch have different reasons to celebrate April 1. In 1572, the Netherlands was under Spanish rule. On April 1, 1572, the Dutch rebels took the city of Den Briel. This marked the beginning of the general civil uprising against the Spanish in 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, which is why it was said that “Alba lost her glasses”. The Dutch commemorate this with jokes and humor on the first of April.