Traditionally, April Fool’s Day is an opportunity for playing jokes or tricks on one another. The stranger and the more absurd the better.
It is celebrated in the United States, England, France, Scotland, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Germany and Norway. Because the day evolves around whimsy and tomfoolery, the origin of this day varies also. The custom of shouting “April Fool!” was brought to the United States by English settlers in the early 1600’s.
One theory to it’s origin goes back to Noah, who is said to have mistakenly sent the dove out to find dry land after the flood began to recede on April 1st. Another has to do with the change in the Gregorian calendar, in which under the old calendar New Year’s Day was celebrated around time of the Vernal Equinox in late March. But, because this occasionally coincided with (or came close to) Easter, church officials back then moved New Year’s day to April 1st. But, when the Gregorian calendar was officially adopted in 1582, New Years Day changed from April 1 to January 1. Some people forgot about the change, and continued to make their New Year visits on April 1. Others paid mock visits to friends and neighbors shouting “April Fool!” to those who took them seriously.
Some historians believe that the Scottish and French customs of pulling pranks in a way reflect the old ancient feelings of spring. Another theory is that April Fool’s Day and pulling pranks started with Lord of Misrule’s ceremonies. Appropriately named, he is said to have organized some wild and unruly feasts and masquerades with people dressed up as mythological beasts or some kind of exotic animal as a form of rebellion against the church. Another theory is of course to blame it on the Romans. This theory states that the Roman festival of “Cerealia” held around the beginning of April, started it. The story is that the goddess Ceres hears the echo of Prosperpina (her daughter) screaming as she’s carried off to the lower worlds by Pluto. Ceres then goes in search of her daughter’s voice. But Cere’s search is a fool’s errand for it is impossible to find an echo.
Yet other scholars believe that April Fool’s Day began as a part of an original spring Celtic festival. You know the saying, “In spring a young man’s thoughts turn to love”, well the Druid priests were working on fooling evil spirits so they won’t interfere with fertility during spring mating (whether people, animals or plants). Thus, it was believed that by pulling pranks all ill-doers and evil spirits would get so confused they were null and void. And so the Druid priest’s ritual was considered a success!
Another theory relates it to the Hindu festival of Holi (or Huli) which of course is another spring fertility festival done with fire. This festival lasts for 5 days, including a continual outdoor bonfire and dancing. This brings people into an estatic mood. So how does April Fool’s fit in? On the LAST day of this festival (which happens to be March 31) people are sent on worthless errands to everyone’s amusement. There are a lot of folk stories in which people are sent on witless missions (or impossible ones). The common thread is that most of this is done in the Spring and is related around love. And, as some scholars say, when it comes to love even the most reasonable people go crazy and conduct themselves in a silly manner when they fall in love. So, April’s Fool’s Day is often associated with romantic craziness and fooling around.
April Fool’s Day was brought to the United States in the 1600’s by the English, Scottish and French settlers. It is believed that France helped influence when this day was celebrated because they changed their calendar in 1564 (King Charles IX) which changed the New Year from March 25 to January 1.
April Fools’ Day is also called Huntingowk Day or Gowkie Day in Scotland, because an April Fool is called a gowk. In England it’s often referred to “All Fools Day” or “April Noddy Day” because in England a fool is referred to as a ‘noddy.’ But, all of these names originate from the “Feast of Fools” which was a popular medieval festival during which social roles were reversed and rules were deliberately broken. The men would dress up as women, eat and gamble at the altar, burn old leather sandals in the censors and engage in other normally unthinkable activities.
The Feast of Fools was really popular in France, where April Fools’ Day is widely observed. No one knows why in France the hoax is an “April Fish” a Poisson d’avril. Those who love to fish say that April has the best fishing. Others say it’s because it’s during that time that the zodiacal sign of Pisces rules. Today, in France, chocolate fish are sold in candy stores for April Fool’s Day. And, friends send one another anonymous postcards (with some silly dialogue) with fish pictures. Other people try to pin a paper fish on someone’s back without being caught. This is similiar to the US prank of pinning a paper sign on someone’s back saying “Kick me.
“Here’s a funny story why the Dutch celebrate April Fool’s. Spain’s King Philip II ruled the Netherlands back in 1572. Rebels opposed to his rule were called “Geuzen” after the French word (Guex) that meant beggars. Den Briel (a small town on the coast) was seized by the Geuzens on April 1, 1572, beginning a civilian uprising against Spanish rule that spread throughout the Netherlands. Commander of the Spanish army was the Duke of Alba, and was powerless to stop the Geuzens. The Dutch word for glasses is “bril.” And, apparently during this uprising, the Duke of Alba lost his glasses. Because the Dutch enjoy this silly mishap, they use it to commemorate April Fool’s day.
Not always April 1. In Mexico and Spain, April Fool’s Day is on December 28 (called Day of the Holy Innocents). According to their custom, it is very foolish to lend someone anything (especially money) on that day because it doesn’t have to be returned. Instead, the borrower sends the lender a box of candies with a note that he’s been fooled. In Germany and Norway, April Fool’s day is celebrated twice: On April 1 and on April 30. How to do an April Fool’s Joke.. The most common prank is of course to make someone run a “fool’s errand.” If not a complete errand, then an unnecessary action, such as checking for an open zipper or missing button.
To be a good April Fool prankster, one must have a cool persona and good timing. A good prankster gets his victim as early as possible before he realizes what day it is. Tradition has it that if a prankster waits too late in the day to pull the prank then he is called the April Fool. It is said that when people pull pranks on one another it is just another way of saying that they care.
April Fool’s pranks are usually first experienced in one’s home with other family members. And, then it will grow to outside social circles of friends, classmates, co-workers etc. However….please stop and think! Not everyone enjoys being embarrassed. And, if you play a prank on someone that you really do not have an emotional respect for, then do not do it. It can often be viewed as expressing anger, hostility, resentment, bigotry, etc.
In closing, don’t pull a prank you wouldn’t mind having done on yourself. This way everyone will enjoy the day. And, if it doubt, then don’t do it. Because hurting someone’s feelings is no joke at all.