How Did April Fool’s Day Originate?

Considering the lack of solid proof, many people have often wondered, "How did April Fool's day originate?" The first of April in almost every country of the world is celebrated lightheartedly. On this day, pranks are played on people for fun, with the historical method being to send someone on a “fool’s errand”. It is a strange fact that though April Fool’s day was being celebrated since as early as the 15th century, speculation of April Fool’s day origin started to surface only in the 18th century. Many theories with ambiguous historical facts are presented, but they all have flaws. The basic propositions can be grouped in three:

The Calendar Reform Theories 

The most notable of all the April Fool’s day origin theories presented by historians revolve around the misunderstandings that took place due to the inefficient spread of change in the calendar. In 46 B.C., the calendar system established by Julius Caesar was applicable. In 1582, Pope Gregory corrected the calendar by omitting ten days from October and announced that the year was to begin on the 1st of January. This developed a leap year system. France was among the first to accept it.

When France accepted the Gregorian calendar, some people clung to the earlier concept of starting the year on the first of April. The locals played pranks on them, calling them “Poisson d’Avril” (meaning April fish, also known as April fools). This was because in France, the fish hatch in April and since the young were still gullible, they became the symbols of idiocy. When history is studied closely, we realize that long before the Gregorian calendar was accepted by France the people had been celebrating the New Year on the first of January. This makes the origination of April Fool's in France uncertain.

The gradual reform of calendar in Britain can be considered a more plausible cause of April fool, as it was customary in Britain to celebrate eight days starting from the 25th of March and ending by the 1st of April. When the change occurred some people clung to the old tradition, but this too was brought to an end by around 1752.

The Literary Work Speculations.

The most repeated reference is that of Chaucer’s work "Nun’s Priest’s Talein which a cock falls victim to a fox’s tricks and barely escapes death. This was written as happening during “Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two” or translated, during thirty two days after March began, which meant the 2nd of April. This became mistaken by the populace as 1st of April, suggesting a start of the April Fool tradition. These few lines are not enough to be placed a solid proof for the origination of the customary April Fool's day. Other writers such as Eloy d’Amerval in 1508, Eduard de Dene in 1539, and John Aubrey 1686 have works of historic references to April Fool's day but none provide a definitive answer.

Hypothesis of Different Countries.

The most interesting tale of April fool is that of Great Britain. In the 13th century, a rule implied that any road the king set foot on would become the states' property. When the king decided to visit Gotham, the people refused to let him in and when he sent his soldiers to investigate, the people started acting foolishly. The king declared them too foolish to punish and left. April Fool's is said to be in remembrance of that ruse.

On the of 1st April, 1572 the town of Den Briel, Netherlands was recaptured from Lord Alva. “Bril” in Spanish means glasses so the rebels made up a rhyme that said that on the 1st of April, Alva lost his glasses. Some other similar stories prevail but the mystery remains unsolved.

Little is still known about the origins of April Fool’s day origin as was known in the 18th century. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the custom keeps gaining fame. The simplest explanation could be that man has always sought shelter from turmoil and misery and what better way than to have a day of jest and fun all in good faith. Maybe the people enjoy celebrating a day of fun with no historic eminence.


April Fool's Day



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