The 1st of April is the day when you can play jokes on your friends and family and shout: “April fool!” April Fools Day is celebrated in many countries around the world by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes. But where has this tradition really come from? Actually, its exact origins remain a mystery. However, there are many different and interesting stories about it.
Some writers connect it with a change of calendar – in Middle Ages the New Year was celebrated during the last week of March. And once the calendar was changed and most of the people started to celebrate the New Year on 1st January, some continued to celebrate it on 1st April and so they were called fools and had jokes played on them.
April Fools’ Day has also been linked to the Spring Equinox or the first day of Spring, when nature was fooling people with changing weather. The origin might also be linked to some ancient festivals, such as Hilaria, celebrated in at the end of March in Rome, during which people used to dress up.
The French call April 1 Poisson d’Avril, or “April Fish” as a symbol of a young, easily caught fish and a fool person. French children sometimes tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates, saying ‘Poisson d’Avril’ when the prank is discovered.
This tradition got spread around Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition was called ‘Huntigowk Day’ – a corruption of ‘hunting the gowk’ (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool), when people were sending phony errands to each other.
Nowadays, April Fools Day is popular throughout the Western world. In some countries even newspapers, radio & TV stations and Websites are participating in this tradition reporting fictional messages. In 1998, for example, the famous company Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper” which led to many requests for the fake sandwich from the clueless customers!