Where did April Fool’s Day come from?

Rebecca Stahl
Staff Writer

All Fools’ Day, more commonly known as April Fool’s Day has been celebrated for several centuries by several cultures. Although the exact point of origin remains a mystery, some historians say that it dates back to 1582.

This was the year that France switched from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar, as called by the council of Trent in 1563. Those who did not realize or were too slow in realizing that the start of the New Year’s celebration had moved to January 1 st – January 6 th from March 27 th – April 1 st , became the target for everyone’s jokes. Some would say that these jokes included placing paper fish on their backs and were referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish) which is said to symbolize an undeveloped, caught fish and a gullible person.

Historians have also linked this holiday to ancient festivals such as Hilaria. Hilaria was commemorated at the end of March, in Rome, where people would dress-up in different disguises. Others believe that April Fool’s Day was tied to the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. This was the time when Mother Nature “fooled” people with drastic changes of the weather.

April Fool’s Day spread throughout Britain in the 18 th century. The tradition became a two-day event in Scotland where prank games where held, starting with “hunting the gowk (cuckoo bird),” in which people were sent on phony errands. This game was followed by Tailie Day. A day in which pranks were played on people’s butts, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

In modern times, this holiday became a phenomenon. Media has widely publicized this event with TV shows, radio and billboard advertisements, and a wide array of hoaxes on news stations. For example, on April 1 st , 1987, BBC news show Panorama announced that due to a very mild winter and virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a copious spaghetti crop. The report included footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. After that aired, thousands of people were calling into the network, asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree.

In 2002, a British market chain called Tesco placed an ad in The Sun, claiming that they had successfully developed a genetically modified “whistling carrot.” Those who believed the “whistling carrot” and opposed it, said that it would be “a nightmare for future generations,” as cited by hoaxes.org. In 2014, CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio satirical show, This is That, ran a segment about Lana Newstrom who was selling invisible art. Soon after it aired, many people were calling in, believing that Newstrom was an artist, and were paying millions for the invisible art.

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