The Origins of April Fool's Day
March 26, 2013
Remember putting "kick me" signs on fellow classmates or friends as a child? Or playing little jokes on others on April Fool’s Day and then yelling "April Fools!!" to them afterwards? These little things were the extent of my April Fool’s Day gags and pranks, and I haven’t celebrated or really acknowledged April Fool’s Day since childhood; but we all know there are adults out there who do acknowledge it every year and who even perform complex pranks on others.
Ever wondered how April Fool’s Day came about? Well, if you are curious person like me who enjoys history, you tend to wonder about the origins of holidays, special events, etc. and their true meaning. April Fool’s Day is also called All Fools’ Day, and most countries celebrate it on April 1. The most popular theory for the origin of the holiday is that it started in France back in the 16th century. The Gregorian calendar was adopted (by Pope Gregory) 1582, which moved New Year’s Day from March 25 to January 1. The people who continued to celebrate the new year during the end of March through April 1 were mocked, referred to as fools, and sent on "fool's errands."
Many countries have their own theories of origin for the holiday. Another popular French theory says the origin of fooling people on April 1 is tied to how easy newly hatched fish could be caught in early April. Fooling people was the way to celebrate the abundance of "foolish" fish. French people still call April Fool’s Day pranks Poisson d’Avril or "April Fish," and they celebrate by trying to pin a paper fish on others’ backs without getting caught. In Portugal they celebrate by throwing flour on each other, and in Scotland the day is devoted to spoofs about the buttocks. The "kick me" signs that we Americans, at least, are very familiar with came from the Scottish!
To learn about how even more countries celebrate the holiday or about April Fool’s Day in general, check out our Research Databases! The Library has a children’s book available called April Fool’s Day by Melissa Schiller, which explains the different ways the holiday is celebrated around the world. Several fiction books for children also come up as results when searching the catalog for April Fool’s Day, including a Nancy Drew story from 2009 called April Fool’s Day.