Origin of April Fools’ Day

Every year, people come together to join in to play practical jokes and spread hoaxes and get away with it Scot free. Why? It’s April Fools’ Day – the favorite day of all pranksters around the world!

The origin of April Fools’ Day is a bit of a puzzle, as there are several ideas of where it could have came from in history. Here are several theories about the origin of April Fools’ Day:

  • In 1564, the French reformed its calendar to the modern day Julian Calendar, based on the calendar that Julius Caesar created. The change to this calendar involved moving the New Year from the end of March to January 1. Some of the people were stubborn, and wanted to keep the old calendar. In order to tease these ‘backwards’ people who would not change to the Julian Calendar, pranksters would stick paper fish to these stubborn people’s backs. This tradition is called Poisson d’Avril (April Fish), which is what the French call April Fools’ Day today.
  • A Flemish Writer published a satirical poem in 1539 about a nobleman who planned to send his servant on aimless errands on April 1st to help prepare for a wedding feast. The servant eventually realizes that his master is playing a trick on him and making him run a fool’s errand on this day – April 1st.
  • According to Roman mythological scholars, Pluto (the God of the Dead) abducted Proserpina to the underworld. Proserpina tried to call to her moth for help but Ceres was unable to find her despite being able to hear Proserpina’s voice echo for help. This event was commemorated during the ancient Roman times during the festival of Cerealia.
  • According to a British legend, the town of Gotham, Nottinghamshire, was also known as the ‘town of fools’. In the 13th century, anywhere the King walked upon became public property. The townspeople of Gotham heard that King John was going to travel through their town. As they did not want to lose their private property to the King, they refused him entry into Gotham. In anger, the King ordered his army to go to Gotham – only to find that the residents had engaged in weird and wonderful activities such as drowning fish in an attempt to scare off the King and his army. The King and his soldiers declared the Gotham townspeople as crazy so they were not punished.

Although the true origin of April Fools’ Day may never be known, Historians say that it most likely came from continental Europe before spreading to Britain, despite the British legend that took place in Gotham.

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