The history of April Fool’s Day (as known in the US) is the subject of debate, but most experts agree the origins date back to 1582 in France with the reform of the calendar under Charles IX. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1582, and New Year’s Day was officially moved from March 25 – April 1 (New Year’s week) to January 1.
Of course, news traveled slowly in those days and it took literally years for news of these changes in the calendar system to spread throughout the countryside. Therefore many more rural and isolated folks did not know about the change and others simply ignored it or preferred to celebrate the old dates.
These people were often called “fools” by the general populace, and were subjected to ridicule and sent on fools errands – such as being sent invitations to nonexistent parties or lured into false romantic liaisons. The butts of these pranks became known as a “poisson d’avril” or “April fish”. A common practice was to hook a paper fish on the back of someone as a joke.
This joke-playing tradition evolved into the custom of prank-playing on the first day of April. And it eventually spread to Britain and Scotland in the 18th century and was then introduced to the American colonies by the English and the French. Because of this April Fool’s Day has taken on an international flavor with each country celebrating the holiday with a unique variation.
In Scotland, for instance, April Fool’s Day revolves around spoofs involving the buttocks and as such is called Taily Day. The butts of these jokes are known as April “Gowk”, another name for the cuckoo bird. The origins of the “Kick Me” sign can be traced back to the Scottish observance.
Jokes are played only in the morning in England. Fools are called “gobs” and the victim of a joke is often called a “noodle”. It is considered bad luck to play a practical joke on someone after noon.
The holiday is known as Festival of Hilaria in Rome, celebrating the resurrection of the god Attis, and is celebrated on March 25 and is also known as “Roman Laughing Day.”
In Portugal, April Fool’s Day falls on the Sunday and Monday before Lent. As a part of this celebration, many people throw flour at their friends and neighbors.
The Huli Festival is celebrated on March 31 in India. People play jokes on one another and smear colored paints on each other to celebrate the arrival of Spring.
Here’s to an fun, exciting, and prank-filled April Fool’s Day 2010…but watch your back!!!