April 1st has been the most fun-filled day of the year throughout the decades for people of all ages. But why do we celebrate this day as April Fool’s Day? How did the tradition of pranking begin?
The exact origin of this tradition is yet to be known, however, there are a few theories explaining this day in history. Let’s have a look at some of them:
One of these theories states that during the ancient times it was April 1 (day of the vernal equinox) that was marked as the beginning of a New Year unlike the current practice of marking January 1st as New Year’s day. Majorly the Romans believed April 1st as the New Year’s day as they followed the Julian Calendar named after Roman emperor Julius Caesar. But in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered to replace the old Julian Calendar with the new Gregorian Calendar. The Gregorian Calendar is what we follow even today, making January 1st as the beginning of a New Year. As a result of this, many people refused to accept the change in the calendar and continued to celebrate New Year on April 1st. Those who had adopted the new Gregorian calendar made fun of these people often calling them as ‘fool’s’ and tricking them into running false errands. This soon became a tradition and spread widely in England in the 18th century. Legend also says that the ‘fools’ would fall prey to the others and end up having paper fishes are known as Poisson d’Avril, or “April Fish.” – symbolising foolishness and gullibility – placed on their backs, becoming the butt of jokes.
Many historians also trace the origin of this day to a Greco-Roman festival called Hilaria. Hilaria translates from Latin into ‘the cheerful ones’. It also said that the festival was celebrated to honour the mother of Gods, Cybele on March 25.
Another theory states that the writer of the famous book ‘The Canterbury Tales’, Geoffrey Chaucer, contributed to this tradition by stating a date of ‘March 32’ in his book, “Nun’s Priest’s Tale,”. This 1392 work, stars a rooster named ‘Chauntecleer’ being fooled by and fooling a fox. This happens “Syn March bigan, thritty dayes and two,” which means the 32nd day after the beginning of March i.e. April 1. However, it also suspected to be a mere misprint.
As April 1st was the day of the vernal equinox i.e. change of seasons in the Northern Hemisphere from Winter to Spring, people believed that this was Mother Nature’s way of fooling people by completely changing the seasons. Legend states that this is how the people were inspired to do the same.
In one another theory, April 1st is associated with the ‘Feast of Fools’ being celebrated in Europe around the 16th century. The festival involved ridiculing the church’s customs by electing a ‘lord of misrule’ often amounting to blasphemy.
Every year on April 1st, pranks go viral all over the world with people enjoying a good laugh and some others becoming the ‘prey’. This year too it shouldn’t be any different!