Europe has a long-established tradition of mischief linked to this date in spring. Yet, in spite of being immensely popular, the first of April has not been granted recognition as a public holiday in any of countries. However, when the day comes, people seem to enter a sort of universal collusion to poke fun at anyone they possibly can.
“So what is April fool about if not public celebration?”
Playing jokes and spreading hoaxes on the occasion feels almost like an obligation. Even governments join in, not to mention television and other mass media as well as businesses. Did you read about the trick by Burger King when they promised to sell left-handed hamburgers to millions of their left-handed customers? According to the company, many American people actually bought the whopper – figuratively speaking. We have also witnessed a number of scientific hoaxes since the average person feels rather naïve and often lacks specific knowledge for critical judgment in this area.
Where did April Fools come from?
The penchant for pulling someone’s leg is a pretty common human trait. Folks used to prank each other in the past. Holidays and festivals similar to April’s Fool Day are traced to the time around spring equinox. Some pundits would tell you it could be because the weather is then so fickle as to make people feel fools at Mother Nature’s mercy. True or not, the version is appealing.
Since times out of mind, different peoples held various renewal festivals when spring came. Cold months were over. Nature was waking up from its slumber and entering a new circle of life. For folks, who had endured the winter with all its hardships, it was a very joyful period. You see that contemporary April Fools’ Day history has long roots.
In Ancient Rome, they had a festival called Hilaria celebrating the resurrection of Attis, Phrygian god of vegetation. Roman merrymaking began around March 25 and continued for several days. Anyone could take the occasion to dress in disguise to fool others about the wearer’s identity. Hilaria also went by the name of Roman Laughing Day. Renewal festivals with Aprils Fools’ features were the Holi festival in India, and the Iranian Sizdahbedar. Both were connected with practical jokes. Europe just picked up the custom and gave it a new spin.
Modern April fool story
However, the contemporary Western practice of duping people on the first day of April probably goes back to France under the reign of King Charles IX, when the new Gregorian calendar was introduced following the Pope’s decree. Up to that moment, people normally celebrated the year’s beginning in spring, in connection with the arrival of vernal equinox. The festivities stretched for a few days, approximately until the first of April, with parties and presents. In 1564, the French King issued an order moving the New Year day to the first of January, to bring popular celebrations in line with the new calendar. Many Frenchmen were far from happy with the reform. The new New Year met with opposition on part of the old France that insisted on having the holiday in springtime. As usual, the progressive-thinking crowd ridiculed the traditionalists for behaving like back country hicks, and started playing pranks on them. It often involved sending invitations to fake New Year parties around April 1. The person who accepted the invite and showed up for a non-existent event became a laughing stock – or April fool, in other terms. One more popular way to ridicule the old-timers was to present them with gag gifts in place of serious ones.
Maybe, you have heard that April fools in France are called ‘April Fish’, and wonder why? The phrase t hints to the astronomical fact of the Sun leaving the zodiac sign of Pisces. Hence, ‘April Fish’ moniker may involve connotations of backwardness, suitable for a person who is unaware of the new developments. Napoleon I, too, was labeled ‘Poisson d’Avril’ on an occasion – not to his face, of course – since he married his second wife on the first of April. Besides, fish was one of the common gifts on the occasion of old New Year, so pranksters started attaching a small and not very fresh fish to their victims’ clothes. Back then, people often wore much more copious outfits than today, so the fish could dangle there unnoticed for a while until it started giving off a nasty smell. That was the moment to cry: April Fish!
The whole April fool story became so popular in France that at some point the tradition pushed across the Channel and caught on in England. Over there, it became customary to send gullible people on sham errands, otherwise known as fool’s errands. Association with the old New Year date weakened. From the English Isles the practice was brought to the New World. Strictly speaking, all the jesting and antics on April 1 are supposed to cease by noon. And in some places, people stick to this rule. But for the most part, folks pay it no mind continuing in the afternoon, although pranksters do seem to be most active in the morning.
When is April fools in 2018?
As always, the jokers’ holy day will be on the first of April, which falls on Sunday in 2018. Additionally, this year it will also be Easter Sunday. As the two big festivals are almost upon us, you may want to stock up on April fool pun ideas now, especially in case you are planning to take in somebody. Even if you do not, forewarned is forearmed: check out some of the best April Fools’ jokes as well as the worst ones to know what you may expect.
As a special tidbit of advice for those who loathe all that mischief of April 1, and dread the holiday approaching, consider turning the tables on pranksters: when April Fools’ Day comes, tell people you meet that foolery has become punishable under the new legislation passed by the Senate, or whatever body of authority you have in your country. Make up a plausible pretext if you wish, or go without one. Just remember to put on a very earnest face: practice in front of a mirror if you have to. Good luck and happy April Fools’ Day to everyone!