The History of April Fools’ Day

People around the world observe holidays to celebrate a variety of things. Some holidays are meant for religious purposes and act to commemorate the triumph of good over evil. Others are meant to honor political events. Many holidays are patriotic, celebrating a nation’s victory or honoring a national hero. Then, there are those holidays that are simply for cultural purposes. All the major holidays that we observe today have history behind it. However, there is one holiday that urges us to ditch all seriousness and indulge in bizarre behaviorisms. That slightly odd, yet fun, holiday is known as April Fools’ Day. Also called All Fools’ Day, this holiday is celebrated on the 1st day of April. While people in different countries have their own ways of observing this day, the one thing that is common to all cultures is the indulgence in light-hearted merrymaking and the celebration of foolishness.

How it All Started

"Also called All Fools’ Day, this holiday is celebrated on the 1st day of April."

Though most Western countries (and quite a few Eastern countries too) celebrate the 1st of April as April Fools’ Day, the origin of this celebration is attributed to France and its monarch, Pope Gregory XIII. Before the year 1582, the old Julian calendar was followed. According to the old calendar, the week-long New Year celebrations culminated on the 1st of April. However, after the new Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582, New Year celebrations were moved to the 1st day of January. Despite the change, some people kept celebrating April 1st as New Year’s Day. It is believed that some did this to show either their opposition to the new calendar or out of simple ignorance. These traditionalists or ‘fools’ were made fun of and thus began the tradition of All Fools’ Day! With time, the event crossed the French borders and spread throughout Europe.

Conflicting Theories

While this is the most widely accepted theory behind the origin of this holiday, there are a few conflicting theories as well. Iranians play pranks on each other on the 13th day of the Persian New Year, which corresponds to the 1st of April in the Gregorian calendar. This tradition can be dated back to 536 B.C. The earliest recorded mention of the celebration of foolishness on the 1st of April can be found in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which was published in the year 1392.

Famous Pranks and Practical Jokes

Whatever be the seed of this holiday, today April 1st is widely accepted as the day to play pranks and practical jokes on friends, colleagues, and family members. There have been instances of organizations playing mass pranks through newspapers, radios, and television ads. In 1996, a newspaper ad claimed that The Taco Bell Corporation had bought the Liberty Bell, which would henceforth be known as the Taco Liberty Bell! With hundreds of outraged calls sent to the National Historic Park in Philadelphia, they later confirmed that this was all a prank. Another instance occurred two years later when the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter claimed that the value of pi had been changed by the Alabama state legislature. Instead of the accepted 3.14159, they announced the new value of pi would be 3.0. The prank was later picked up by the Internet and spread across the world causing outrage. Afterward, the parody was announced and confirmed as a prank.

If all this has inspired you to play some pranks on friends and family, check out our April Fools’ Day page where we have listed out mischievous pranks that will make the upcoming April 1st a day to remember!

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