The official history of April Fool’s Day is somewhat clouded, but the modern experts think it began in France around the year 1582. This was due to the reform of the calendar under King Charles IX. During the calendar reform, the Gregorian calendar was introduced. The week of New Year’s was moved from its original dates of March 25 through April 1 to January 1.
As there were no cell phones or email during those times, communication travelled slowly. Many people were only informed of the official calendar change several years later. While some people were not aware of the change, others refused to accept it and continued to celebrate on the last day of New Year’s week, or April 1. No matter the reason, these people were all labeled as “fools” by the general public and were ridiculed, sent on “fools errands, received invitations to parties that did not exist and were the subject of multiple pranks. The “fools” who were pranked on a regular basis became known as “poisson d’avril” or “April fish,” as young fish are generally naïve and easily caught.
This kind of prank evolved over time into a custom that continued on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to Britain and Scotland during the 18th century and was finally introduced to the American colonies by the English and the French. Due to the spread of April Fool’s Day, it has taken on an international meaning within each country, as they celebrate the holiday in their own special ways.
For instance, in Scotland, April Fool’s Day is devoted to pranks involving kicking the rear ends of people. It is fittingly known as Taily Day. The recipients of these kicks are known as April ‘Gowk’, which is another name for cuckoo bird. Origins of the “Kick Me” sign taped on an unsuspecting person’s back can be traced back to Scottish observance of April Fool’s Day.
Other interesting facts about April Fool’s Day are:
- In England, jokes are played only in the morning, as it was considered back luck to play a practical joke on someone after noon.
- In Rome, the holiday is known as “Roman Laughing Day.”
- In Portugal, April fool’s Day is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent and people throw flour at their friends.
Do you enjoy pulling a good April Fool’s Day prank? What are some of your best stories? Share them below!