It’s always a good idea to be skeptical about what you read on the Internet, but on April 1st that’s especially true. Why do we play pranks on each other on April 1st? There are a couple of theories as to how this holiday got its start. The first theory is that April Fools Day began after Europe switched from the old Julian calendar to the modern Gregorian calender. Prior to the switch, most of Europe celebrated the beginning of a new year from the 25th of March to April 1st, to coincide with the festival of the Annunciation. “April Fools,” then, was a day to play jokes on “April fools,” or people who insisted on celebrating New Year’s on the wrong day.
There’s also another possibility: the April Fool’s Day holiday could have been derived from the Persian holiday of Sizdahbedar, which also falls on April 1st, involves pranks, and has been celebrated since at least 536 BC.
Either way, everyone loves a good practical joke, and countries around the world celebrate April Fools Day. Here are some examples:
- In France, the tradition is to sneak up on someone and attach a paper fish (called poisson d’avril, or “April’s Fish”) to your victim’s back without them catching on.
- This tradition is also practiced by children in Italy. Popular adult pranks include fake reports about alien invasions, free money giveaways, etc. Here, all practical jokes played on April Fools’ Day are called “pesce d’aprile,” or “April’s Fish,” whether they involve a fish or not.
- Scottish people traditionally referred to April 1st as “Hunt-the-Gowk Day.” To celebrate, they would find an extremely gullible person and ask them to deliver a sealed message to a third person requesting help with an urgent issue. Instead of requesting help, the message would actually say: “Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile”. Then, the recipient would tell the victim to deliver the letter to yet another person. The idea was to see how many people the poor “gowk” would be willing to deliver the letter to before realizing he’d been had.
- In Poland, the holiday is called “Prima Aprilis.” Kids get to dress up, and just about everything on the news is a hoax.
What’s the best April Fools’ joke you’ve ever played?