April Fool’s Day History

on April 6, 2012

April Fool’s Day is celebrated annually on April 1. It’s not a federal holiday or one schools observe. It is a day many people enjoy and commemorate by playing practical jokes upon each other, making them look “the fool.”

Possible Origins

One theory has the origin of April Fool’s Day in France, revolving around the changing of the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The year end of the Julian calendar was March 25, which fell during Holy Week, so the new year was celebrated on April 1. The move to the Gregorian calendar put the new year on January 1. Some believe that after the switch of the calendars, people could be tricked into believing that April 1 was still the new year, thus being made fools.


Origins Debunked?

Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes in San Diego, Calif., disagrees with the calendar theory. He says that the “theory is completely wrong, because the day that the French celebrated the beginning of the year legally was Easter day, so it never was associated with April first. Traditionally it was only a legal start to the year — people in France did actually celebrate [the New Year] on January first for as long as anybody could remember.” Boese believes April Fool’s Day may have evolved from European spring festivals where pranks were common.


Around the World

April Fool’s Day is celebrated in many countries. In England, you call a fool a “gobby” or “gobs.” If you are the receiving end of a prank, you are the “noodle.” In England, it also is considered bad luck to play any pranks after noon. The Scottish, however, take credit for the “Kick Me” sign prank, as their April Fool’s Day tends to center on jokes regarding the buttocks. In Italy, the Romans celebrate a bit earlier on March 25. This day is known as “Roman Laughing Day” and is the Festival of Hilaria.


Famous Pranks

The years 2010 and 2011 saw pranks on the unsuspecting public regarding “amazing” new Google technology. The Google Translate for Animals App and the Google Gmail Motion Unveiled offered giggles to Internet users everywhere. In 1998, Burger King ran an ad on April 1 offering its customers a “left-handed Whopper.” The new burger was designed with its “condiments rotated 180 degrees, thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so the that the bulk of the condiments will skew to the left, reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out the right side of the burger.” Burger King received several requests that day for a left-handed burger.


From whoopee cushions to chattering teeth and calls asking if your refrigerator is running, pranks on April 1 have become a tradition not just for individuals but also for businesses and more. It can be a day of a lot of laughs, but remember if you’re going to play a joke on someone, prank responsibly.

Found in: Traditions