No Joke: The history of April Fools Day


Celebrated by many cultures for centuries as “All Fools’ Day,” the precise origins of April Fools’ Day are still a mystery to many. According to some historians, the prankster holiday began in 1582 when the France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. Of course in the 1500s, news of the calendar change was slower to spread. Those still following the Julian calendar failed to realize the start of the New Year began on January 1 and instead continued to celebrate it through March, beginning the New Year on April 1. These people were in turn made to be the butt of people’s jokes.

Another popular theory revolves around ancient Roman festivals called ‘Hilaria’ celebrated at the end of March. The festival involved people dressing in disguises celebrating the vernal equinox: the time in which Mother Nature tricked people with unpredictable weather patterns (looking at you, Florida).

In the 1700s, April Fools’ Day finally caught on in Britain as a prankster’s holiday and is still relevant today. Many people, including big time Newspapers, radio and TV stations have participated in playing pranks on April 1 for years such as a 1957 BBC report about Swiss farmers experiencing its largest spaghetti crop harvest. They even showed footage of people collecting noodles from trees. Furthermore, National Public Radio (NPR) always manages to slip in a fake story every April 1 in the spirit of the holiday.

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