The origins of April Fools’ day remain a mystery, however there are many theories about how it came to be.
The most popular theory is that in 1582, France adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved New Year’s day to the 1st of January. It was previously celebrated on the 25th of March to the 1st of April. Those people who continued to celebrate New Year’s during the last week of March were often sent on “fool’s errands” and tricked into believing hoaxes by the rest of the population.
There are many holidays and festivals around the world that share a similar theme of foolishness and occur around the same time as April Fool’s day give or take a few weeks. They also pre-date April Fools’ day and share in the celebration of spring.
- The Romans celebrated the festival of Hilaria at the end of March, which involved disguises and rejoicing.
- In India, the festival Holi also known as the festival of colour sees participants throwing coloured powder and water at each other. Happens in either February or March.
- Jews have the holiday Purim, which involves the wearing of disguises and bringing gifts of food from door to door. Takes place on March 4th.
- The Feast of Fools was celebrated in medieval Europe. It involved electing a Lord of Misrule who would parody Christian rituals. Both high and low officials would swap roles during the feast. It took place on the 1st of January.
While there is no evidence that April Fools’ descended from one of these festivals, it’s more than likely that it shares its similarities because of humanities behaviour to celebrate the arrival of spring with good hearted mischief and revelry.
April Fools’ in other countries
Many countries also have their own traditions and names when it comes to April Fools’ day.
In France and Italy, the tradition of putting a paper fish on an unsuspecting victim is known as poisson d’Avril (France) or pesce d’Aprile (Italy) which means April Fish. The fish is known to be a symbol of April 1 in these countries.
In Scotland, it was called Huntigowk Day although it has fallen into disuse. The name is taken from ‘hunting the gowk’ as a ‘gowk’ is a cuckoo but on April 1 it is referred to the victim who is sent off on a gowk hunt. He would be asked to deliver a message but unbeknownst to him the letter would ask the recipient to send him to another person further ahead until he realised he was being fooled. Now it is just known as Gowkie Day.
In Portugal, it is common to throw flour at your friends. It is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday prior to lent.
In Poland, it is known as Prima Aprillis and is celebrated more or less the same as most other countries with fun, pranks and hoaxes.
Here’s some April Fool’s whiskey pranks that you might enjoy and also a more in depth look at where April Fools’ day comes from.