Unlike most of the other nonfoolish holidays, the history of April Fool's Day, sometimes called All Fool's Day, is not totally clear. There really wasn't a "first April Fool's Day" that can be pinpointed on the calendar. Some believe it sort of evolved simultaneously in several cultures at the same time, from celebrations involving the first day of spring. The closest point in time that can be identified as the beginning of this tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new year was celebrated for eight days, beginning on March 25. The celebration culminated on April 1. With the reform of the calendar under Charles IX, the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved to January 1.
However, communications being what they were in the days when news traveled by foot, many people did not receive the news for several years. Others, the more obstinate crowd, refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1. These backward folk were labeled as "fools" by the general populace. They were subject to some ridicule, and were often sent on "fools errands" or were made the butt of other practical jokes.
This harassment evolved, over time, into a tradition of prank-playing on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to England and Scotland in the eighteenth century. It was later introduced to the American colonies of both the English and French. April Fool's Day thus developed into an international fun fest, so to speak, with different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of their friends and families.
Pranks performed on April Fool's Day range from the simple, (such as saying, "Your shoe's untied!), to the elaborate. Setting a roommate's alarm clock back an hour is a common gag. Whatever the prank, the trickster usually ends it by yelling to his victim, “April Fool”.
Practical jokes are a common practice on April Fool's Day. Sometimes, elaborate practical jokes are played on friends or relatives that last the entire day. The news media even gets involved. For instance, a British short film once shown on April Fool's Day was a fairly detailed documentary about "spaghetti farmers" and how they harvest their crop from the spaghetti trees.
April Fool's Day is a "for-fun-only" observance. Nobody is expected to buy gifts or to take their "significant other" out to eat in a fancy restaurant. Nobody gets off work or school. It's simply a fun little holiday, but a holiday on which one must remain forever vigilant, for he may be the next April Fool!
April Fools' Day is about more than playing jokes, tricks and pranks. That's just the most fun part of the day! In the 16th century, France celebrated the New Year just like we do today, except they partied on April 1st. In 1562, Pope Gregory changed the calendar to the one we use today and from then on, the New Year began on January 1st. Lots of peeps didn't know about the new calendar, or they ignored the new calendar and kept celebrating on April 1st. Everyone else called them April fools and played tricks on them.
You Know What They Say About Fools...
It's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and leave no doubt. -- Mark Twain
However big the fool, there is always a bigger fool to admire him. -- Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux
[Politicians] never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge. -- Thomas Reed
He who lives without folly isn't so wise as he thinks. -- François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools. -- Herbert Spencer
Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise people for their wisdom. -- Elizabeth Gaskell
Looking foolish does the spirit good. -- John Updike
Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed. -- Mark Twain
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. -- William Blake
A fool must now and then be right by chance. -- Cowper
It is better to be a fool than to be dead. -- Stevenson
The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year. -- Mark Twain
April Fool's Day History
The history of April Fool's Day or All Fool's Day is uncertain, but the current thinking is that it began around 1582 in France with the reform of the calendar under Charles IX. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved from March 25 - April 1 (new year's week) to January 1. Communication traveled slowly in those days and some people were only informed of the change several years later. Still others, who were more rebellious refused to acknowledge the change and continued to celebrate on the last day of the former celebration, April 1. These people were labeled "fools" by the general populace, were subject to ridicule and sent on "fool errands," sent invitations to nonexistent parties and had other practical jokes played upon them. The butts of these pranks became known as a "poisson d'avril" or "April fish" because a young naive fish is easily caught. In addition, one common practice was to hook a paper fish on the back of someone as a joke. This harassment evolved over time and a custom of prank-playing continue on the first day of April. This tradition eventually spread elsewhere like to Britain and Scotland in the 18th century and was introduced to the American colonies by the English and the French. Because of this spread to other countries, April Fool's Day has taken on an international flavor with each country celebrating the holiday in its own way.
In England, jokes are played only in the morning. Fools are called 'gobs' or 'gobby' and the victim of a joke is called a 'noodle.' It was considered back luck to play a practical joke on someone after noon. So, no matter where you happen to be in the world on April 1, don't be surprised if April fools fall playfully upon you.
Why is April 1 a day to celebrate foolishness?
Holidays are celebrated for all sorts of reasons. Some honor heroes, others commemorate religious events, but April 1 stands out as the only holiday that celebrates foolishness. April Fools' Day, or All Fools Day , is an odd celebration with a strange history. What other holiday asks us to play tricks and dupe our unsuspecting friends and acquaintances?
There's some uncertainty about when and where this bizarre tradition began, but the most accepted explanation traces April Fools' Day back to 16th century France. Up until 1564, the accepted calendar was the Julian calendar, which observed the beginning of the New Year around April. According to "The Oxford Companion to the Year," King Charles IX then declared that France would begin using the Gregorian calendar, which shifted New Year's Day to January 1.
Not everyone accepted this shifting of dates at the same time. Some believed that the dates should not be shifted, and it was these people who became the butt of some April jokes and were mocked as fools. People sent gifts and invited them to bogus parties. Citizens in the rural parts of France were also victims of these jokes. In those days, news traveled slowly and they might not have known about the shifting of dates for months or years. These people also endured being made fun of for celebrating the new year on the wrong day.
Today in France, people who are fooled on April 1 are called Poisson d'Avril, which literally means the "April Fish." One common joke is to hook a cardboard fish to the back of a person. What a fish has to do with April Fools' Day is not clear. Some believe that the fish is tied to Jesus Christ, who was often represented as a fish in early Christian times. Others say the fish is related to the zodiac sign of Pisces, which is represented by a fish, and falls near April. It's interesting to point out that Napoleon earned the Poisson d'Avril monicker when he married Marie-Louise of Austria on April 1, 1810.
It's probably no coincidence that April Fools' Day is celebrated at the same time that two other similar holidays are celebrated. In ancient Rome, the festival of Hilaria was thrown to celebrate the resurrection of the god Attis. Hilaria is probably the base word for hilarity and hilarious, which mean great merriment. Today, Hilaria is also known as Roman Laughing Day . In India, the Holi festival celebrates the arrival of spring. As a part of that festival, people play jokes and smear colors on each other.
There's no clear connection between the modern observance of April Fools' Day and these two ancient celebrations, which lends most historians to accept the French explanation for how April Fools' Day developed.
In 1708 a correspondent wrote in to the British Apollo magazine to ask, “Whence proceeds the custom of making April Fools?” The question is one that many people are still asking today. The puzzle that April Fool’s Day presents to cultural historians is that it was only during the eighteenth century that detailed references to it (and curiosity about it) began to appear. But at that time, the custom was already well established throughout northern Europe and was regarded as being of great antiquity. How had the tradition been adopted by so many different European cultures without provoking more comments in the written record? References to April Fool’s Day can be found as early as the 1500s. However, these early references were infrequent and tended to be vague and ambiguous. Shakespeare, writing in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, made no mention of April Fool’s Day, despite being, as Charles Dickens Jr. Put it, a writer who “delights in fools in general.” Many theories have been put forward about how the tradition began. Unfortunately, none of them are very compelling. So the origin of the “custom of making April Fools” remains as much a mystery to us as it was back in 1708.
Fools Around the World
In France today, April 1st is called Poisson d'Avril , which means April Fish. Children tape paper fish to their friends' backs and when the young "fool" finds out, the prankster yells "Poisson d'Avril!" In England, tricks can only be played in the morning. If a trick is played on you, you are a " noodle ." In Scotland, you are called an "April gowk," which is another name for a cuckoo bird. In Portugal, April Fools' is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent. Pranksters usually throw flour at their friends.
Practical Jokes For April Fool's Day
April Fools' practical jokes should be done in good fun and not meant to harm anyone. The best jokes are the clever ones where everyone laughs, especially the person who had the joke played on them.
Why do we celebrate April Fools Day?
Truth is we really don't know where the tradition of playing pranks on people came from.
There are a few theories floating around though:
When the western world used the Julian calendar, the year began on March 25th because they celebrated the start of a new year with the start of spring. However since that fell in the Holy Week, the celebrated it on the first of April. However when we switched to the Gregorian calendar in the 1500s, we moved the New Year to the first of January. According to the most widely told story, those who still celebrated the New Year on April 1st were called April fools.
The Encyclopedia of Religion and the Encyclopedia Britannica thinks that the timing of April Fool's Day is directly related to the arrival of Spring, when nature 'fools' humans with erratic weather.
The Country Diary of Garden Lore has a theory that April Fools Day commemorates "the fruitless mission of the rook (the European crow) who was sent out in search of land from Noah's flood-surrounded ark."
So, on April 1st are you going to be the tricked or the trickster?
On 1 April 1957 on BBC's show Panorama opened with a line about Spring coming early this year, prompting the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland to be early as well. In the normal news manner, spaghetti's oddly uniform length was explained as the result of years of dedicated cultivation. The report stated that the ravenous spaghetti weevil had been conquered.