I decided to research the history of April Fools’ Day. All I have ever known about it is that most of us enjoy playing harmless pranks on one another every year on April 1st. It always seemed like a good excuse for a few laughs.
As for its history, April Fools seems to have begun prior to the reign of Charles IX of France (1550-74). The French originally celebrated New Year’s Day on April 1st. When Charles ordered the calendar changed to what is now known as the Gregorian Calendar , New Year’s Day fell on January 1st. For many reasons, much of Europe did not celebrate New Year’s Day on the new date. For one, news traveled very slowly and some countries did not even hear of the change till years later. Another reason is that some people were too stubborn to acknowledge the new system, and wanted the calendar to remain the way it had always been.
Non-followers of the Gregorian Calendar were ridiculed as “fools.” They were often sent on “fools errands,” or invited to parties that were never held. So, due to traditionalists and slow communication, these fools were the reason for April Fools’ Day as we call it today.
In Scotland , April Fool’s Day is celebrated for two days — one is known as “Taily Day,” where you might be the “butt” of a joke. The “kick me” sign , taped to someone’s back, originated from this tradition. French youth often tape paper fish to their friends’ backs, known as “April Fish.” The name originated from the idea that a young fish is easily caught.
In Portugal, people have been known to throw flour at each other.
The book April Fool, or The Evils of Deception , tells of a prank played in 1852 by a young man. He saw a group of girls in the street and shouted, “Run, run girls, a horse is coming!” The girls ran, though there was no horse. One of the girls, holding the hand of her sister, “was so intent upon getting her out of danger, that she did not see a lamp-post, which was in her way, and struck her head against it.”
The young man snickered and yelled out, “April Fools!”
However you celebrate April Fools’ Day — putting a fake spider on a co-worker’s desk or hiding someone’s lunch — have fun. And do it with care!