April Fool’s Day, while not being a holiday that we get off school for, is a day that is celebrated and enjoyed by everyone around. Pranks pulled on friends, coworkers, and families are committed, and some people even treat it as a national holiday. While we celebrate it every year, it’s time for us to look into the past and find out how it came to be. Who started our prankster holiday, and why did it come along?
When looking at the holiday, there are three main points in history to which historians credit the beginning of this holiday. The first point is the change in France’s calendar in 1582. In 1563, the Council of Trent called for the French to change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, changing the start of the year to January instead of April.The change was not told to everyone, causing some to celebrate the first of the year still on March 31st and April 1st. Family and friends of these people ended up joking about it and pulling pranks on them. They had paper fish placed on their backs and were referred to as poisson d’arvil meaning April Fish to say they were “easily hooked” and gullible people.
The next point in history is the Greco-Roman festival called Hilaria, which was celebrated on the 25th of March. It honored Cybele, the Ancient Greek Mother of Gods, and the festivities included parades, masquerades, and jokes celebrating the first day after the vernal equinox. This eventually evolved into what we know today as April Fool’s Day.
The last point in history that it is linked to is the holidays celebrated by the Hindu and Jewish cultures. The Hindu holiday Holi and the Jewish Holiday Purim have murky origins and are celebrated around the same time as Fool’s day. Simon J. Bronner says that, “‘When I talk to students in folklore class, […] [I tell them] that it seems to be part of a more general pattern of spring being a time of hilarity’” (Ross). No matter the origin and how it came to be, the holiday is celebrated around most of Europe and North America.
The past of the holiday brought us a few pranks that lead to some hilarious outcomes. Pranks pulled by family members or friends might include hands in warm water, whoopee cushions, and prank phone calls. Here are some famous ones that were known and remembered for years after. Scotland had a tradition that became a two day event. The first day is called “hunting the gowk”, where people send their friends on phony errands. The second day is called Tallie Day, where people put “kick me” signs and fake tails on their friends. TV show “Panorama” ran a segment about the Swiss spaghetti harvest having a good year, causing most Britons to believe that pasta grows on trees, earning it the No.1 spot on the Museum of Hoaxes website. In 2015, Cottenelle tweeted that there was a new line of toilet paper, tricking the Americans who were worried about the possible toilet paper shortage.