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Origins of April Fools Day

Mar 30, 2023 08:27AM ● By Verlene Johnson

Have you ever thought about what the origins of April Fools Day are? Why was the first day of April picked as a day to play practical jokes on each other? Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to the 16th century when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. In the Julian Calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1. Those who had a hard time adjusting to the new year starting on Jan. 1, became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.” 

Others speculate that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This is when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.

According to, historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to festivals such as Hilaria (Latin for joyful), which was celebrated in ancient Rome at the end of March by followers of the cult of Cybele, an ancient Greek Mother of Gods, and its celebrations included parades, masquerades and jokes to celebrate the first day after the vernal equinox. It also involved people dressing up in disguises and mocking fellow citizens and even magistrates, and was said to be inspired by the Egyptian legend of Isis, Osiris and Seth.

Another origin story is rooted in Geoffrey Chaucer’s 1392 book “The Canterbury Tales.” There is a controversy over what Chaucer really wrote and whether there can be a direct link to April Fools’ Day when he mentions “32 March.” The controversy was whether he meant it as a joke or whether it was a misprint. 

Although April Fools’ Day is not a public holiday in any country, it has been celebrated in many countries for many centuries. In the 19th century, April 1, was considered a children’s holiday in Europe and North America. Children found it a day they got to misbehave. Children filled the streets in London and New York and devised all kinds of mischief.

In Canada, Ireland and the UK, pranks must be completed by noon. Those who pull pranks after the deadline are called an “April Fool.” In Italy, France and French-speaking areas of Canada, it has been a long standing tradition to attempt sticking a paper fish on someone’s back without their noticing. This practice is known as poisson d’avril, or “April’s fish.” This prank dates back to the 16th century, when people put real fish into other peoples backpacks. Children in Belgium often lock parents or teachers out of a room or building, letting them in for exchange of a treat. In Poland and Brazil, the media pulls large scale hoaxes that people often avoid engaging in serious activities that day. In Greece, it is believed if someone successfully pulls off a prank, they will have good luck all year.

People in Morgan pull the typical American April Fool’s Day pranks all throughout the day, from the classic bucket of water on the door frame or plastic wrap on the toilet seat to putting a for sale sign in the front yard to “freak out the kids and neighbors.” While others pour cold water over a person’s head in the shower, others turn hot water off so everyone has to take cold showers. Some families switch roles, while others joke about adding another family member with a fake pregnancy test. While most pranks are in good fun and harmless, it is highly encouraged to stay safe and not cause harm to anybody or property.

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