It’s time to let your inner prankster out because it’s April Fool’s Day!
As you ready your fake lizards and cockroaches and wonder how angry your family would be if you pranked them first thing in the morning, think of this: where did April Fool’s Day come from? Who played the first prank? And why do we all, across the world, have only one day to fool around?
This is the origin story of the day of fools.
There are multiple origin stories for April Fool’s Day as nobody really knows who came up with the concept first. One of the oldest recorded ‘All Fool’s Day’ is during Roman times. The Romans celebrated a harvest festival around the end of March and the beginning of April called Hilaria. It was celebrated on the vernal equinox, which marks the beginning of spring/summer, and Romans would dress up in funny costumes and attend masquerade balls.
Some say it originated in France in 1564, with the Edict of Roussillon. The decree stated that the first day of a new year would henceforth be January 1 and not Easter day, which would be considered the new year by Christians. The people who still observed the new year on Easter after the decree would be called ‘April Fools’ for clinging on to old customs.
Others believe that the idea of April Fool’s Day originated from famous writer Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written in 1392. In the ‘Nun’s Priest’s Tale’, Chaucer describes how a rooster is tricked by a fox, 32 days after March, which lands on April 1 in the Roman calendar. Did you know, the names of the months in the modern day calendar traces its roots back to Roman times?
We may not know exactly where and when April Fool’s Day originated, but what we do know is that each country and culture celebrates it in its own, unique way. For example, in France, it was common for children to stick fish made out of paper on the backs of other people, or even put them down their shirts – the tradition was called ‘Poisson d’Avril’ (Fish of April).
In Scotland, the day is celebrated as ‘Gowk Day’. Gowk is the Scottish term for cuckoo, which is a symbol of foolishness, and people often prank each other by attaching papers on the backs of their friends with the words ‘kick me’ written on them. In Britain, it is the norm for pranks to be played until noon, after which anyone playing a prank would be called an ‘April fool’.
In other European countries, media channels often run a fake story as a prank on their viewers.
What’s your favourite prank? Let us know in the comments.
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