April Fools' Day. Photo: 92.1 The Wolf
April Fools' Day. Photo: 92.1 The Wolf

History of April Fools' Day

No one is quite sure how the tradition of April Fools' Day began.

The time around April 1, and also near the Vernal Equinox, used to mark the start of the New Year. That changed to January 1 with the switch to the Gregorian calendar by France in the 1500s, and some believe that people unaware of the change continued to celebrate in April and were deemed fools, giving rise to April Fools' Day.

Not everyone buys the calendar theory, though. Others say that the occasion evolved from festivals of spring renewal when people hid their identities.

It used to be that pranks had to be completed in the morning in most English-speaking countries. Pranks later in the day were frowned upon, but that custom seems to have gone by the wayside and the whole day of April 1 is considered fair game for joking, as reported by ChicagoNow.

How is April Fools’ Day celebrated across the world?

  • In France, Italy and other European countries, a drawing of a fish is stuck to your back.

  • The French say, “Poisson d’avril !” (April Fish!)

  • In Sweden, you’d be called a herring.

  • Following this theme, a chocolate fish is given as a gift in some countries.

  • In Scotland, April Fools Day lasts for two days. During the first day, people play jokes and pranks and you’d be called April gowk (April cuckoo). A cuckoo is traditionally a symbol of a fool.

  • On the second day of the festival, Scots play jokes based around the buttocks. This day is known as Taily Day.

  • In Ireland, you’re allowed to play jokes up until noon. It’s not the done thing to carry on after that time.

  • April Fools’ Day is known in Brazil as the Day of the Lie because of the widespread hoaxes and pranks.

  • In Greece, the jokes on April Fools’ Day are strongly connected with good fortune. If your joke’s successful, it’s supposed to bring you good luck that year.

  • In Spain and Latin America, the day of pranks and jokes is celebrated on December 28th. It’s called Holy Innocents’ Day.

April Fool's Pranks

Photo: Maps of India
Photo: Maps of India

April 1 is a day for practical jokes in many countries around the world. The simplest jokes may involve children who tell each other that their shoelaces are undone and then cry out “April Fool!” when the victims glance at their feet. Some April Fool's jokes publicized in the media include:

  • In 2002, British supermarket chain Tesco published an advertisement in The Sun, announcing a genetically modified 'whistling carrot'. The ad explained that the carrots were engineered to grow with tapered air holes in their side. When fully cooked, these holes would cause the carrot to whistle.
  • In the early 1960s there was only one television channel in Sweden, broadcast in black and white. As an April Fool’s joke, it was announced on the news that viewers could convert their existing sets to display color reception by pulling a nylon stocking over their screen.
  • In 1934, many American newspapers, including The New York Times, printed a photograph of a man flying through the air, supported by a device powered only by the breath from his lungs. Accompanying articles excitedly described this miraculous new invention, according to TimeandDate.

9 Fun Facts About April Fools' Day

The Scottish love April Fools' Day

In fact, they love it so much, they celebrate it for two days. In Scotland they call it "hunting the gowk" (the cuckoo), and if you are tricked, you are an "April gowk." To really get "behind" the holiday, the second day, called "Taily Day," is devoted to pranks involving the back side of the body. The "butt" of these jokes may often have a "kick me" sign placed on their back.

Books, films, telemovies and television episodes have used April Fool’s Day as their title or inspiration.

Examples include Bryce Courtenay’ novel April Fool’s Day (1993), whose title refers to the day Courtenay’s son died. For further examples, see April Fool’s Day (disambiguation) and the IMDb’s listing of April Fool’s Day films.

Mark Twain appeared to be a big fan of "fools"

Some of his pinings on fools include: "It's better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and leave no doubt" and "Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed" and "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year."

April Fool is known as April Fish in some country

In Italy, France, Belgium, and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, 1 April tradition is often known as “April fish” (poissons d’avril in French or pesce d’aprile in Italian). This includes attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed. Such fish feature prominently on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools’ Day postcards.

Forget anything serious

Photo: Zoom TV
Photo: Zoom TV

In Poland, everyone takes part in April Fools' Day activities, including the media and sometimes public institutions. All serious activities are completely avoided for the day. A favorite joke? Pouring water on people.

In Scotland, April Fools’ Day was traditionally called ‘Huntigowk Day’, although this name has fallen into disuse.

The name is a corruption of ‘Hunt the Gowk’, “gowk” being Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person; alternate terms in Gaelic would be Là na Gocaireachd ‘gowking day’ or Là Ruith na Cuthaige ‘the day of running the cuckoo’. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message that supposedly requests help of some sort. In fact, the message reads “Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile.” The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this next person with an identical message, with the same result.

Wish we grew up in Belgium!

In certain areas of Belgium, children lock out their parents or teachers and only let them in if they promise to give them sweets.

"Important letter"

In Ireland, it was traditional to entrust the victim with an “important letter” to be given to a named person. That person would then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter when finally opened contained the words “send the fool further”.

The origin of April 1

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on 25 March in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on 1 April. Some writers suggest that April Fools’ originated because those who celebrated on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of 1 January as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

Mark Twain said, "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year." Jokes and pranks abound on April 1, April Fools' Day.

For more interesting news of KnowInsiders, check out right below!

April Fools April Fools' Day: Date, Origin & Celebrations

April Fools' Day is around the corner. What are your planned tricks for this special event? Check this day's Date, Origin & Celebrations with Knowinsiders ...

April Fools April Fools' Day: Funny Sms, Text Messages, Jokes

April Fool Day is one of the best times to send funny April Fool messages to family and friends to bring a sweet smile to ...

How April Fool’s Day celebrated Around the World? How April Fool’s Day celebrated Around the World?

The first day of April is considered around the world as the day to play harmless pranks with friends. Let's find out how other places ...