Merry PrankstersThe celebration of April Fools’ Day has a variety of flavors across the globe. Here we take a dive into the history and traditions of this unusual day.
Why April 1st?
This no-holds-barred celebration has Renaissance origins. Until the 16th century, Europe used the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC, to organize the harvest and govern social and religious life. Before the calendar reform, the beginning of the year was celebrated on March 25, and the “New Year” party lasted one week—until April 1st. The significance of March 25 was twofold: it corresponded to the spring equinox and it was also the date on which the Angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced the impending birth of her new baby.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII announced the adoption of the “Gregorian calendar” which moved New Year’s Day from the end of March to January 1st. Though it was widely distributed, those who didn’t get the message and continued to celebrate on April 1st were seen as foolish, and so called: April Fools.
April Fools’ Day traditions around the world
UK: Historically in the UK, joking ended midday and anyone playing a prank after that became the April Fool.
FRANCE: April 1 is traditionally known as “April Fish” in France because pranksters would attempt to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without them noticing.
POLAND: The Polish enjoy an entire day of serious fun. No one – from public institutions to the media—take this day seriously, to the point where the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on April 1, 1683 was backdated to March 31st.
IRAN: The tradition of playing pranks in Iran has reportedly been around since 536BC, making it possibly the oldest known joke day. It’s customary to indulge in food and games outside celebrating the coming of spring, and to throw away any green vegetables that represent bad luck for the coming new year.
PORTUGAL: The Portuguese keep it simple, embracing one specific prank as their own: throwing flour on people.
INDIA: The “Holi festival“ falls on March 31st and is the day in India to play jokes and throw colored dust on your counterparts.