Did the title fool you? No, Fairfield is not canceling exams anytime soon, unfortunately. Sorry to play this cruel joke on you, but it’s all in the spirit of the upcoming April Fools’ Day! In honor of this day, I have decided to research the history behind a holiday loved by pranksters and practical jokers.
April Fools’ Day, celebrated each year on April 1, is a holiday whose origins are not exactly clear. The holiday is celebrated in many different cultures around the world and has been for centuries. According to History.com, some historians believe that April Fools began in France in 1582, the year that France switched from using the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. This led to a common confusion surrounding the new year’s start, which was on April 1 in the old calendar.
Those who were late to hear the news regarding the calendar change continued to celebrate the new year on April 1 instead of January 1. Due to this, people were mocked and called it “April fools.” These same people became the victims of pranks, such as having paper fish being placed on their backs and being called “poisson d’avril” or “April fish.” This was meant to symbolize their lack of intelligence, similar to a fish that is easily caught at the hands of fishermen.
The mysterious origins of April Fools’ Day may also be linked to other festivals, such as the ancient Roman festival “Hilaria,” in which celebrators dressed up in costumes and mocked others towards the end of March. Those who took part in this festival were members of the cult of Cybele and were said to have been inspired by the tale of Egyptian gods Osiris, Isis and Seth.
In Britain, the holiday spread throughout the 18th century, with traditions such as “hunting the gowk” in Scotland. People were sent on fake errands, with a “gowk,” meaning a cuckoo bird, symbolizing a foolish person. This two-day event continued with Tailie Day, involving playing pranks based on people’s backsides, such as pinning a fake tail.
April Fools’ Day may also be linked to the vernal equinox, the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This is due to nature “playing a trick” on us during this time with the unpredictable weather changes that occur as Spring approaches.
In more modern times, major companies take part in the April Fools’ Day fun, such as Burger King. In 1998 the companies advertised the “Left-Handed Whopper,” a made-up sandwich supposedly designed to be more easily held by left-handed customers.
Another popular company that tricked users was Google. They claimed that they had a search engine that could be used telepathically.
Radio stations also notoriously play elaborate jokes to trick their listeners on April Fools’ Day. One of the most notable occurrences was in 1992 when National Public Radio brought Richard Nixon on as a guest, who announced that he would be running in the upcoming presidential election for another term. The radio station then revealed that it was not Nixon, but only an actor who was playing a joke on listeners.
Now that you’ve been educated on the history of this wacky and mysterious holiday take some inspiration from the pranksters of the past and go out and have some April Fools’ fun!