Ah, April Fools’ Day – the prankster’s favourite time of year. Mayhem, mirth and merriment are mandatory. Expect light hearted jokes to be played on friends, family and increasingly, total strangers. But where did April Fools’ Day even come from? Does every culture around the world have a joke holiday?
The Original Pranksters
The April Fools’ tradition is found around Europe, North America, the Middle East and Southern Asia – but where did it start?
Nobody really knows the single point from which April Fools’ Day sprouted, but there are some theories and clues that seem to serve the legend. In what’s possibly the first written record of April Fools’ Day in the 1390s, a chicken is outsmarted by a fox on the “32nd of March” in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, from the Canterbury Tales.
Tricking fools on April 1st doesn’t seem to have become popular in Britain or anywhere in Europe until far later – at least until the 16th century – and the primary theory for its origin is the adoption of the Gregorian calendar.
Before January 1st was New Year’s Day, celebrations were made in a weeklong celebration beginning on March 25th, with the new year being ushered in on April 1st. When the custom changed to celebrate on January 1st, those slow to adapt were mocked as “April fools”. This story seems to have the most support behind it – especially after it was popularised in The Simpsons. Of course, there’s plenty of artistic license taken in The Simpsons’ take on the origins of the day, but it’s still funny.
Is Pranking on April 1st an International Affair?
Yes it is – and Europe has a rich history of pranking customs on the first day of April. Ireland, Poland, Nordic states, Lebanon and India have their own takes on the most foolish day of the year.
April Fools’ Day has become a beloved European cultural export all over the world, with businesses, brands and publications all joining in the fun; elaborate hoaxes, bogus product launches and nonsensical national news stories spread far and wide. It’s all a good bit of fun, unless you’re the one on the end of the prank!
But be warned – fooling lore states that failing to take a prank with good humour spells bad luck for the rest of the year, so if you do happen to be on the receiving end of a little joke, have a laugh at yourself just to make sure.
International Prank Days to Add to Your Calendar
Are there any other significant pranking days you should know about?
Well, if you’re travelling to Scotland you should be warned that April Fools’ Day spans TWO days – so you can expect to find yourself fooled on the 2nd of April too. Denmark gets a double-dose of pranking too, with both April 1st and May 1st being celebrated as prank days.
In Spain and Latin America, in a tradition taken from the biblical story of Herod, little children prank their elders on December 28th. And, in possibly the oldest pranking tradition in the word, Iranians take to the great outdoors on the last day of Persian New Year celebrations – and play as many friendly jokes on each other as possible. Sizdah Bedar as it’s known falls on either the first or second of April, which could be another clue to the origins of the funniest day of the year.
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