Oh, the pranks that are planned, anticipated, and well (or not so well) executed on this day. Some can’t wait for this day of tricks, and others dread what may be pulled on them throughout the day. So what’s the reason for having a day dedicated to scheming against your peers? Let’s look at the history behind April Fool’s Day.
No one can say specifically where the idea came from to try to out-whit your friends on the first day of April. However, there are some historical facts to help us understand the day a little better.
- The first widespread mention of the day dates back to the 18th century in an article published in a British magazine. It was already pretty well-known across Europe by that time, though.
- Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” from the 1300’s depicts a rooster that was fooled by and also fooled a fox. In the story, it is said that the date of all the folly between the 2 animals takes place happens to fall on the first of April. Some discount this as having any real connection to April Fool’s Day.
- In 1561, a French poem tells of a servant being sent on “fool’s errands” which the servant refers to as an April 1 joke.
- By the 16th century, many recognized the first day of the month of April as a day of pranks.
- Over the next century, the day of jokes became more well known and loved by the pranksters at heart.
These facts point to April Fool’s Day as one that has been around for quite a while, but it may have originated even earlier than we think! It was common in most cultures (even before the times listed above) to have some kind of festival in which there were times of organized chaos. Things that are normally socially unacceptable become accepted for this one time. These festivals were often referred to as “renewal festivals”. A common Roman festival was named “Hilaria”, and the things that took place during the festival resemble what you would see happening on any given April Fool’s Day in present times.
Other indicators point to a festival called “Feast of Fools” where mischievous acts were commonly performed. Traces of this feast have been found in the same parts of Europe where the first indications of the actual day called “April Fool’s” originated.
A change in the French and English calendars within the last 500 years resulted in New Year’s Day being moved from spring to January 1. While the change took place on the calendar, people tended to continue a spring celebration as they had done for years past. Those that stuck to the traditional spring celebration were the brunt of some cruel jokes inviting them to fake celebrations to ring in the new year. They coined the term “poisson d’Avril” (or “April fish”) for the ones that were gullible enough to fall for the pranks parties. This term referring to fish was likely because they were so “easy to catch” just as a hungry fish in April would be an easy catch.
While any of these or other historical events could’ve marked the beginning of the day we now call April Fool’s, the fact remains that this is the day to always watch your back, check your sources, and always be on guard in order to keep from being the punch line of a prank. These days, your naive nature is not just voiced among those in the office that see or hear of you being out-whitted. April Fool’s jokes are now recorded and shared among hundreds of thousands, if not millions, across the globe via social media. Be careful! You may just be in the video that goes viral!
Happy April Fool’s Day!