Who doesn’t love a good April Fool’s prank? Whether you’re putting a whoopee cushion on someone’s chair or bubble wrap under the rug, the holiday can bring a smile to anyone’s face. When thinking about how this day of pranks came to be, I discovered that there has been some confusion regarding the origins of the holiday and how it’s cemented its place as a beloved holiday for the young and the old.
Historians have argued that the origin of the event dates back to 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. In the Julian calendar, the new year is marked to begin around April 1.
Due to this, grand amusement ensued when the Gregorian calendar had changed the official start of the new year to Jan 1, and those who were unaware continued to celebrate during the last week of March. These unlucky individuals became known as “April fools,” and were the victim of pranks such as having a paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as an “April Fish,” which is meant to symbolize a gullible person. The holiday has also been linked to a festival known as Hilaria, which was an act of worship to Cybele, the goddess of fertility near the end of March. Followers of Cybele dressed up in disguises and mocked fellow citizens while also playing games and providing entertainment.
Historical accounts of the Holiday report that it spread vastly throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, it was celebrated as a two-day event, which began with “hunting the gowk,” where people were tricked into going on foolish errands and were referred to as a gowk, which is a Scottish term to refer to a foolish person. This was then followed by Tailie Day, where fake tails and “kick me” signs were placed on people’s backs.
No matter how this fun holiday came to be, it’s obvious that it’s had a large impact and continues to be celebrated around the world. Many countries have different rules and traditions when it comes to taking part in the festivities. In Greece, it’s believed that if you trick someone, you will have good luck all year long. In England and Ireland, pranks can only be played before noon. Also specifically in Ireland, a false statement was made that you can only drive on the right side of the road. Learning about April Fool’s mysterious history was almost as fun as the day itself!
Whether you’re planning an elaborate prank or a clever joke, I hope your April Fool’s Day is full of fun and surprises!