We have all heard of the day but I know very few who know where the heck it came from. So, here is some history on it!
April Fools’ Day (sometimes called All Fools’ Day) is an informal holiday celebrated every year on April 1. The day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is widely recognized and celebrated as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other, called April fools.Hoax stories are also often found in the press and media on this day.
The origins of April Fools’ Day are obscure. The most commonly cited theory holds that it dates from about 1582, the year France adopted the Gregorian Calendar, which shifted the observance of New Year’s Day from the end of March (around the time of the vernal equinox) to the first of January.
According to popular lore, some folks, out of ignorance, stubbornness, or both, continued to ring in the New Year on April first and were made the butt of jokes and pranks on account of their foolishness. This became an annual tradition which ultimately spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world.
However, the earliest known historical reference to April Fools’ Day occurs in a Dutch poem, published in 1561, which predates the adoption of the Gregorian calendar by some 21 years.
Another weakness of the calendar-change theory is that it doesn’t account for a historical record replete with traditions linking this time. Many French resisted the change and neocites dubbed them as fools and played pranks on them. They started sending them on ‘fool’s errands’, sent them the fake invitations for parties and tricked them into believing something false. The victims were called ‘Poisson d’Avril’ or ‘April Fish’ as the naïve fish gets caught easily and children would often tag of a fish’s picture on someone’s back. Thus, April Fool’s Day originated and was popularly celebrated in England and in the American colonies. It evolved and was caught on quickly throughout the world to trick each other and have fun. Even today, people play pranks on each other on this day in the memory of those tradition-obsessed ‘fools’.
Perhaps the best illustration of the April Fool’s Pranks of the 19th century is the Thomas Nast’s illustration, originally published in the April 2, 1864 issue of Harper’s Weekly. It highlights the various pranks that were popularly played at the time with its caption as ‘All Fool’s Day’. Some of the pranks shown here include women visiting an older man wearing beards and moustaches, Civil War Soldiers tricking each other such as a soldier barring the view by holding his hand on in front of the binoculars of a friend and a sailor doing the same by holding his hat over the telescope of a friend. The other tricks include a young boy tying a string on the dress of a little girl while a schoolteacher is shown with the sign of ‘Old Fool’ on his back. e of year to merriment and tomfoolery dating all the way back to antiquity, and not just in the west.