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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 Scotland, for instance, April Fool’s Day is devoted to spoofs involving the buttocks and as such is called Taily Day. The butts of these jokes are known as April ‘Gowk’, another name for cuckoo bird. The origins of the “Kick Me” sign can be traced back to the Scottish observance.

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.

In Rome, the holiday is known as Festival of Hilaria, celebrating the resurrection of the god Attis, is on March 25 and is also referred to as “Roman Laughing Day.”

In Portugal, April Fool’s Day falls on the Sunday and Monday before lent. In this celebration, many people throw flour at their friends.

The Huli Festival is celebrated on March 31 in India. People play jokes on one another and smear colors on one another celebrating the arrival of Spring.

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great post! I never knew this was how April Fool’s day developed. To think it was because of a change in the yearly calendar!

  2. I goofed, Paisley! That last comment was from me, but I didn’t realize I had to sign in first.

  3. carolyndee says:

    I remember the great news video once when we were in London on April 1st. They showed families harvesting spaghetti from trees and gave all these fake statistics about the amount of the harvest and the economic results. I was surprised the TV news joined in with such an elaborate April Fool’s joke. I had no idea until your post that the day was so old or so widespread. Thanks, Paisley

    Caroline Clemmons!

  4. Glad you are enjoying the April Fools history. I had no idea either that it has been around for such a long time. It amazes me at how different regions of the world react to this day. My Scottish ancestors definitely had a sense of humor – I hate the ‘kick me’ sign.

  5. Thanks, Paisley, for sharing this entertaining oddity. I had no idea April Fool’s Day was celebrated outside the US, and I’m stunned to learn how old the tradition is.
    It’s nice to know we can use the day in most of our historical writing. Just remember to stay this side of 1582.

  6. Isabel Roman says:

    I hadn’t realized (like everyone else here, apparently!) how old the tradition was. Or what the origins of some of our pranks were, like the sign. Thanks, Paisley!

  7. Wow, what a great post! I hadn’t realized the tradition went back so far, either. I’ve always loved April Fool’s Day –it was my grandma’s birthday. She was the fourth girl in a row, so I always wonder about her poor father when the midwife told him he had another girl. Was he waiting for her to say “April fools”? LOL.

    Loved this Marlene, very informative. Sorry to be so late getting here to read it.

  8. Shelley says:

    Just wanted to mention a new book on Dickens, Rosemarie Bodenheimer’s Knowing Dickens.

    My time period is about a hundred years later (and American!), but I’m still getting a lot out of this book.

  9. jake says:

    This was helpfull in my school project.

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