What is the origin of April Fools’ Day?

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April 1st is commonly known as April Fools’ Day, a day where pranks are played and people are tricked. Many have taken part in this holiday, but lack the understanding of its history. Where did it originate? What is its significance? Not even historians are able to guarantee the answers to these questions, as this information remains unidentified. However, many have their educated assumptions.  

Some historians believe that April Fools’ Day all began in 1582 when France switched to the Gregorian calendar. This new calendar moved the beginning of the year from April 1st to January 1st. Back then it was difficult to spread news, so it took a long period of time for everyone to follow these new dates. Those who had not been informed of the switch and still celebrated the beginning of the year around April 1st were classified as fools and even had pranks played on them. In their article “April Fools’ Day,” History.com explains that “these pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as ‘poisson d’avril’ (April fish).” This is considered to be where the idea of playing tricks on others on this particular day came from. However, there are still other speculations. Other historians tie April Fools’ Day to the vernal equinox which is also known as the first day of spring. Since weather changed around this time of year, many viewed this as a time of mother nature tricking society with new weather. There are many ideas of how April Fools’ Day all started, but it is difficult to say which is correct.

Many associate April Fools’ day mainly with the act of playing tricks on others and then shouting “April fools!” afterward, and as we know from the previous information, these pranks have been going on for a very long time. This holiday varies in many countries, but they are all constant in the sense of making others look like a fool. For example, in Britannica’s article “April Fools’ Day,” they identify that “in Scotland the day is Gowkie Day, for the gowk, or cuckoo, a symbol of the fool.” Some may plan last-minute jokes to trick others, but people have begun to take this holiday very seriously, going to a great extent when playing a hoax. Although in the past media outlets have played pranks on the public, this has largely decreased after backlash arose. For example, in the article “BBC’s 1957 April Fool’s ‘spaghetti-tree hoax’ is more relevant than ever”, the author dissects the famous spaghetti-tree hoax. Broadcasters pranked the public by sharing a story of a family harvesting spaghetti from a tree. After a large response from the public the idea developed that “perhaps serious news outlets shouldn’t indulge in such pranks at all.” More recently, news outlets play hoaxes on fellow broadcasters, rather than the public, in order to avoid controversy. 

Overall, April Fools’ Day is enjoyed by many people from several countries and may be considered underrated. This holiday may be difficult to trace, but it sure has become a day of worldwide laughter.