The Comical History of April Fool’s Day

April Fool’s Day isn’t an official holiday, but maybe it should be! With all the pressures of daily living, who can’t use a does of laughter in their life to help relieve the stress?

Official holiday or not, many people across the globe celebrate this day in their own entertaining way.

There is more than one explanation of how April Fool’s Day originated. The most believable story places its beginning sometime in the sixteenth century in France. Just as it is now, the first day of the new year was called, “New Year’s Day.” However, New Year’s Day in that earlier century was celebrated on March 25th, not January 1st. The March date corresponded with the spring – also called the vernal equinox. This is the date when the winter season changes over to spring. (At least, according to the calendar, because the weather doesn’t always match the calendar.) The spring equinox marked the beginning of new life on planet earth. So, it only made sense that this day would also be celebrated as the first day of the new calendar year.

The people of France rang in the new year much as we do today. They threw parties, drank, feasted, and celebrated the day. In fact, they celebrated New Year’s Day for an entire week! Their festivities often didn’t end until April 1!

Finally in the year of 1582, the current calendar – the Julian calendar – was replaced by the Gregorian calendar. (This is the same date system we use today.) Pope Gregory the 13th, who was the ruler at that time, proclaimed that New Year’s Day would now be celebrated on the first day of January instead of on the spring equinox.

Many of the French didn’t approve of the new date. They openly defied Pope Gregory’s order by refusing to abide by it. They continued to celebrate the new year on March 25. In fact, some European countries refused to abide by the new calendar for centuries! Scotland, for example, didn’t recognize the new Gregorian date system until 1660! Germany, Denmark, and Norway waited until 1700, and England didn’t give in until 1752! Once these countries switched over to using the Gregorian calendar, they began to celebrate January 1st as being New Year’s Day.

The remaining citizens who followed the new Gregorian calendar laughed and poked fun at the resistors. They sent out invitations to parties that did not exist.

They also pulled pranks and jokes on them and tried to fool them into believing false statements. Soon, any person who fell for one of these gags was known as an “April Fish” or “Poisson d’Avril.” This nickname was said to have been used because fish are not highly intelligent and they are easily caught.

The French school children played a prank on other youths by secretly attaching pictures of fish onto their backs. When the pictures were finally revealed, the pranksters would call out, “Poisson d’Avril!” or “April Fish!” Later, of course, the term “fish” was replaced by the word “fool.” After that, anyone who fell for a high jinks on April first was called an “April Fool”.

Nowadays, children are still the biggest players of pranks on April 1. One example of an April Fool’s prank is an old, but ever-popular scam that children often play on each other. The jokester tells a child that their shoelace is untied. Then, when the unsuspecting victim looks down to check, the
jokester calls out “April Fool!”

However, adults often get in on the fun on this day every year too!

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