Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's Day

April Fool's Day

While I have never been interested in the April Fool's Day pranks personally, the history of the day has always fascinated me.  I am always interested in how a tradition such as this one evolves over time, so I thought I would pass on some information I have gleaned over the years.

April Fool's Day, sometimes called All Fools' Day, has origins that are very unclear.  Many ancient cultures, including the Romans, celebrated their New Year's Day on or around April 1st.  I remember learning in a history class that during medieval times, many European countries tended to celebrate New Year's Day on the Feast of Annunciation, March 25. 

In 1582, the Gregorian calendar was ordered (by the Pope) to replace the old Julian calendar, which called for New Year's Day to be celebrated on January 1st.  Communication being what it was during this time period, it would have taken many years for the news to have reached across Europe and to have been adopted in many countries.  I would imagine that many people may have also refused to change their ways, and I'm sure the feast continued to be celebrated for countless years on April 1st.  People who did not change to the new calendar were perceived as 'fools' and thus the label of All Fools' Day was born.

The problem with this thinking is that the Gregorian calendar was not adopted until 1752 in England, yet April Fools' Day had been celebrated there for many years by that point.   So how did the idea of April Fools' Day spread? 

I had also learned that the idea of pinning a 'kick me' sign to someone's back orginated somewhere in Scotland, where April Fool's Day is celebrated for two days.  I also know from a good friend of mine who is Scottish that they celebrate Taily Day on the second day, a day devoted to jokes involving the posterior.  I had never heard of this before and I found it really fascinating, although it is something I would never do. 

However the origins of April Fool's Day, for many the day is one of light-hearted fun and frivolity, a day known for practical joking.  I've been the recipient of more than one piece of chalk stuck in my eraser over the years.  And the fartcushions left on my chair...well, enough said.

One of my favourite April Fool's Day Hoaxes took place in 1962 in Sweden.  At the time, Sweden only had one tv channel and it broadcast in black and white.  Apparently, the station's technical expert appeared on the news and announced that if you pull a nylon stocking over your tv screen, thanks to new technology, you could convert your tv to receive colour reception.  The expert proceeded to demonstrate the process and thousands of people fell for the gag.  Colour broadcasts did not begin in Sweden until 1970.  I thought this was hilarious!!!!

I think I'll leave you with a couple of my favourite quotes about fools...

However big the fool, there is always a bigger fool to admire him.  - Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux

Let us be thankful for the fools.  But for them, the rest of us could not succeed. - Mark Twain

References: and


  1. Is it bad that when I read the news this morning that Borders had secured new financing, I thought it was an April Fool's Joke?