In Poland it is called Prima Aprilis and in Hungary Bolondok napja. In Germany, they ‘send’ someone into April with a prank on ersten April and in France and Italy the day is called Poisson D’Avril and Pesce d’aprile respectively – literally translating to April/April’s Fish – where people try to unobtrusively attach paper fish to others’ backs!
The Scots have Hunt-the-Gowk-Day with a Gowk being a cuckoo or fool. Victims are sent from house to house with the message: “Dinna laugh, an’ dinna smile, but hunt the gowk another mile”
The day moves to December in many Spanish-speaking countries with Día de los Santos Inocentes – Day of the Holy Innocents. Originally a sad remembrance of the slaughter of the innocent children by King Herod, it has evolved into a much lighter day with pranks and trickery.
Here we have plain old April Fool’s Day and it’s a funny old tradition, isn’t it? Although it is celebrated in many countries across the world, no-one is entirely sure where it came from. It is known to date back to at least the 16th century, but April tom-foollery may have also been referred to by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales as far back as 1392.
One of the most popular theories, however, seems to be that it was first celebrated soon after the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar. Before that most of Europe celebrated the beginning of the new year during the Christian Feast of Annunciation, starting on 25th March and finishing with a bang on 1st April with parties and celebrations going on through the night. When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1582, New Year’s Day was moved to January 1. The theory is that people who continued to celebrate on April 1st, because they didn’t know or didn’t believe the change, were ridiculed and called, you guessed it, April Fools.
However, perhaps we need to look even further back to the Iranians. Sizdah Bedar is celebrated on the 13th day of the Persian new year (Norouz) which falls on the 1st or 2nd of April. This day may have been celebrated as far back as 536 BC so maybe this was the start of it all?
Check back next week for a rundown of some of the best pranks pulled this year (and I hope they’re better than throwing shoes over a telephone wire… sorry, had to link the photo in somehow!)
Photo: © June M Sobrito | Dreamstime.com