The origin of April Fools Day is rather uncertain. However, the common belief holds that during the reformation of the calendar the date for the New Year was moved from April 1st to January 1st. During that time in history there was no television and no radio so word spread slowly. There were also those who chose to simply ignore the change all together and those who merely forgot. These people were considered “fools” and invitations to non-existent parties and other practical jokes were played on them. Some suggest that the origin began with the celebrations of the Spring Equinox. While some believe it has to do the a Roman festival known as Hilaria, the end of the Celtic new year.
“All Fools’ Day” is practiced in many parts of the world with practical jokes, hoaxes, and sending people on a fool’s errand.
In Scotland, April Fools Day lasts 48 hours. Day two is know as Taily Day, and pranks involving the posterior are played. The victim’s practical joke is referred to as “hunting the gowk”; the gowk is an extinct cuckoo bird. When used here it mean foolish person.
Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile.
In France, victims of the prank is the “poisson d’Avril” or “fish of April.” The fish in April are newly hatched and easily caught. French children enjoy taping a picture of a fish on their friends back and yelling out “Poisson dAvril!” when it is found.
In the United States, pranks are played on just about everybody. Pranks range from the standard “Your shoe is untied”, to some very creative and elaborate ideas. The only “rule” is that no one should be harmed. Corporations, newspapers, and television stations will also play practical jokes on the public on April Fools Day.
Dia de los Santos Inocentes is held in Spain on December 28th. This is “The Feast of the Holy Innocents”. It’s celebrated similarly to April Fools’ Day with practical jokes.
The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools’ Day.
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.
— Poor Robin’s Almanac (1790)
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