History of April Fools

Every year on the 1st of April, millions of people play pranks, get pranked, or do both. Although this day, commonly known as April Fool’s Day, is celebrated by many, there is much debate among historians as to where it originated from. Many religions and cultures have set apart a certain day for playing harmless pranks. Interestingly, April Fool’s Day is not a national holiday in any country.

The most common theory today is that April Fool’s Day originated from Europe. The Europeans were following the Julian calendar, in which the New Year fell on April 1st. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII set forth a new calendar: the Gregorian Calendar. Here, the New Year took place on January 1st. However, many people did not hear about the calendar switch and thus celebrated the New Year between March 25th and April 1st. These people were pranked and ridiculed by those who had already changed to the Gregorian calendar.

A possible origination of April Fool’s Day is the Roman Hilaria festival, which celebrated the resurrection of the Roman god, Attis. As one would probably notice, Hilaria is quite similar to the English word “hilarious,” so the day was a happy one. Any day with a cause for rejoicing, such as birth of a child, or marriage, was called Hilaria. Hilaria is modernly known as Roman Laughing Day.

Many other cultures celebrate these “days of joy”. In India, people celebrate the festival Holi by throwing colorful dye at others. In Persian culture, Iranians play pranks on one another on a day known as Sizdahbedar. In Ireland, the victim of the prank would be sent to deliver a letter with the message “send the fool further,” and the poor person would go from person to person with the letter.

April Fool’s Day, in many forms, has long been a day when people all over the world are joyous and playful. Whether one is the prankster or is being pranked, everyone can enjoy the day where they just laugh.