April Fools Day: How did it start?

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Who came up with the idea of April Fool’s Day, and why?

A woman being silly on April fools Day

April Fools’ Day, also known as All Fools’ Day, is an annual holiday celebrated on the first day of April. It is a day of pranks and practical jokes, where people play tricks on each other with the aim of making them look foolish or silly.


The origins of April Fools’ Day are somewhat unclear, with several different theories about its beginnings. One popular theory suggests that the holiday has its roots in ancient Roman festivals, such as Hilaria, which were celebrated at the end of March to mark the beginning of spring. These festivals included dressing up in costumes and playing pranks on one another, much like the modern-day April Fools’ Day.


Another theory suggests that April Fools’ Day has its origins in medieval Europe, where the new year was celebrated on March 25th. When the calendar was changed to begin on January 1st, some people continued to celebrate the new year in March and were ridiculed by those who observed the new year on the correct date. The pranksters would then send the foolish celebrators on “fool’s errands” or trick them in other ways.


In France, April Fools’ Day is known as “Poisson d’Avril,” which translates to “April Fish.” This tradition involves people taping paper fish to the backs of their friends and family members, who are then referred to as “poisson d’avril” or “April Fish.” The origins of this tradition are unclear, but it is believed to have started in the 16th century.


One famous April Fools’ Day prank was pulled by the BBC in 1957. The news program Panorama broadcast a segment about a Swiss family who were harvesting spaghetti from trees. The segment showed footage of people picking spaghetti from trees and ended with the line, “For those who love this dish, there’s nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti.” The segment was a complete fabrication, but many viewers were fooled by the realistic-looking footage.


In 1996, Taco Bell announced that it had purchased the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” The announcement caused a great deal of outrage and criticism, but it was later revealed to be an April Fools’ Day prank.


Another famous April Fools’ Day prank involved the Swiss town of Bern, which announced in 1999 that it was switching to a new time zone that was six minutes ahead of the rest of Switzerland. The announcement caused confusion and chaos, with many people worried about being late for appointments or missing trains.


Despite the widespread popularity of April Fools’ Day, not everyone is a fan of the holiday. In fact, some countries have banned April Fools’ Day altogether. In Iran, for example, the holiday was banned in 2010 by the country’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which cited concerns about the “negative impact” of the holiday on public order and morality.


Overall, April Fools’ Day is a holiday that has been celebrated for centuries, with its origins shrouded in mystery and legend. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the holiday has become a global phenomenon, with people all over the world playing pranks and pulling practical jokes on April 1st every year.


Fact Sources:

“April Fools’ Day: A Brief History.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, LLC, March 30, 2011. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/april-fools-day

“April Fools’ Day: The History and Origin of Pranks.” Live Science. Future US, Inc, March 28, 2019. https://www.livescience.com/24412-april-fools-day.html

“The Top Ten April Fools’ Day Pranks of All Time.” Time. Time USA, LLC, March 31, 2014. https://time.com/4266646/april-fools-day-pranks/

“The Origins of April Fool’s Day.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, April 1, 2019. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/origins-of-april-fools-day

“April Fools’ Day: The Best and Worst Pranks of All Time.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited, March 31, 2017. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/31/april-fools-day-best-worst-pranks-time/