The Origin Of April Fool's Day: How Did It Start? - Freshered
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The Origin Of April Fool's Day: How Did It Start?

Jasmyne Jeffery March 31, 2023

We know it as a day to make practical jokes on your friends and family, or the day not to believe a word anyone says. It’s a strange annual tradition, so wondering how it started is pretty normal. We look into the origin of April Fool’s Day and explain its history.

Sure, there are some pretty strange annual traditions around the world. Things like Groundhog Day or Pi Day are pretty random, but it doesn’t come much more unusual than April Fool’s Day. Helf every year on April 1, practical jokers have until midday to lightheartedly trick friends and family and shout ‘April Fools!’ in their faces. After 12 o’clock it’s meant to be bad luck, but we’re not sure that stops everyone.

We’ve already given you some simple April Fool’s Day pranks. Now, it’s time to learn the history behind April Fool’s and how it first came about.

The Origin Of April Fool’s Day

The exact origins of the day aren’t officially known, however, there are a few reasons why it started across different cultures around the globe.

Some historians believe that April Fool’s Day first began in France in 1582. This was the year that the country switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, meaning the beginning of the year changed from the Spring Equinox to January 1. The Spring Equinox was typically around April 1, so those who didn’t get the memo and still celebrated the day were ridiculed and had paper fish stuck to their backs. This was because they were ‘easily caught’ and gullible, referred to as poison d’Avril — April fish.

However, that isn’t the only place where jokes were played on people around April Fool’s Day. In Ancient Rome a festival called Hilaria, meaning joyful, was celebrated at the end of March. On this day, people dressed up in disguises and mocked other people in the town.

And that’s not even all. The origins of the day are also linked to the weather. Due to the unpredictability of weather in early Spring, many believed Mother Nature was fooling people in the Northern Hemisphere by playing tricks.

Though one reason cannot be pinned down to how April Fool’s Day started, there are lots of origin stories for how it became so popular.

Phrase ‘April fools day in lightbox

April Fool’s Day History In Britain

The day didn’t become popularised in Britain until the 18 century, like to the increase in imports and travelling. Taking to it quickly, the ‘celebration’ became a two-day event in Scotland. On the first day, people were sent on funny fake errands called ‘hunting the gowk’, a word for a cuckoo bird, often used as a symbol for a fool.

The second day was Tallie Day, which really emphasised the butt of the joke. This day saw people place signs on others saying ‘kick me’, or even pinning fake animal tails to them. Really, the focus was all on the bottom.

Since its arrival, April Fool’s Day has become quite a phenomenon. Each year, large companies take part and attempt to trick their customers, often with ridiculous products.

In 2015, Tesco jokes that they were launching ‘bouncy aisles’

PayPal even tried to convince users that they would be able to print money from their phones. If only that were true!

With April Fool’s Day tomorrow, it’s only a matter of time before we see the awful jokes and products companies will pretend to launch. That being said, keep an eye on those close to you as well. You wouldn’t want to walk around with a fish pinned to your back all day.

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Jasmyne Jeffery is a full-time Entertainment and News Writer on university-themed website Freshered and HITC, and joined the company having previously worked in a freelance role. She attended the University of South Wales where she was also a student blogger and graduated in 2022 with a first-class honours degree in English and Creative Writing. Now, she puts her creativity to use reviewing university bars, Love Island episodes and the latest apps any 18-25-year-old is using.