Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's Day

The origin of April Fools' Day is not known exactly. There have been many guesses and explanations for its origin. Some believe the celebration of April Fool's Day began many years ago in France. People believe that this day perhaps relates back to an ancient New Year's festival held on the vernal Equinox, March 21. This was the beginning of the new year according to the pre-Gregorian calendar. In France when the implementation of the Gregorian calendar was changed, by Charles IX in 1564, the beginning of the new year was changed and celebrated on January first, those people who still celebrated the day on the first of April were know as April
Fools'. Prior to the change of the date it was customary to give gifts on the first day of the year therefore when the date was changed people began sending mock gifts to other people on April first making them April fools. In France a person who resisted in changing the date of the new year was victimized by pranksters who played practical jokes on him, this person became to be know as a poisson d'avril otherwise known as an April Fish.

The custom made its way around to other nations as well. Some time later England and Scotland decided to adopt the custom of playing jokes on people. In Scotland the favorite April fool's joke is to send someone on a cuckoo hunt. The word gowk is derived from the word geck, which means "someone who is easily imposed upon. The prank of sending someone out on a cuckoo hunt became so common that in Scotland April Fools' Day is know as April Gowk Day. This is considered to be a prank because there is no such thing as a cuckoo.

Most believe April Fools' Day was derived by the change of the calendar. Some believe the origin comes from the timing of the year during the vernal equinox. The weather fools all mankind. In many countries April Fools' Day is celebrated on other days besides the first of April. In Mexico April Fools' Day is celebrated on the 28th of December. In ancient Rome the day was celebrated on the 25th of March. Also in India they observe the day on the 31st of March. In America the day is mostly observed by young people and practical jokers who want to get a laugh at someone else's expense.

One other theory of how the day came about was derived from the remnant of the festival of Cerelia. This was an ancient Roman feast which celebrated the story of Proserpina. According to the legend, Proserpina was abducted by Pluto the Roman God while she was gathering lilies in the valley. Proserpina's mother Ceres was so distressed to hear about the abduction of her daughter that she began to make a futile search for her. Because of the hopelessness of Ceres mission her quest to find her daughter has been known to be called the "fool's errand." Many different kinds of tricks are played on April Fools' Day. Some of which are the hunt for the cuckoo in Scotland, or the April fool's letter. It is important to remember however that
the jokes one plays should be all in good fun for both sides. April Fools' Day should not be a day to play nasty jokes on unsuspecting victims. One must remember the difference between a good joke and a bad one.

Overall April Fools' Day is a day in which everyone can have a lot of fun pulling pranks. The day most probably began because of the change in the calendar and the day now lives on as a day of fun and practical jokes.


Henrig, Cohen,&Tristram. (1987) The Folklore of American Holidays: All Fools' Day. Potter, Coffin, Detroit.Mich.

No Author, (1993) April Fools' Day, In Collier's Encyclopedia Vol 2. PP 128, New York, Toronto, Sydney

No Author, (1994) April Fools' Day, In Encyclopedia Americana Vol 2. PP 496, Danbury, Connecticut.

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