Origin of April Fools’ Day traced to France
Brad Avakian / Reporter
The root of the first April Fools’ Day is nearly
untraceable, since, depending on who you ask, the answer to
where this wacky holiday came from will most likely be
different. If you happen to ask an Aprilophobic, he might
flee before giving his theory of origin. Aprilophobics suffer
from the fear of April Fools’ Day.
Theories on where the tradition of April Fools’ Day
originated range from Noah’s dove’s premature
flight towards dry land, to the resurrection of the Roman God
Attis, celebrated with the festival of Hilaria, to the Hindu
festival of Huli, which includes a bonfire and dancing to
celebrate spring fertility.
The French foundation for this day seems to be the most
logical. It is fact that in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII announced
adoption of the calendar style known today as Gregorian. This
calendar celebrates New Year’s Day on Jan. 1 and serves
as an international standard for civilian use.
Before 1582, France used the Julian calendar, which
designated April 1 as New Year’s Day. The Romans, the
Hindus and a number of other ancient cultures also observed
this as the first day of the year since it closely followed
the vernal equinox.
As springtime arrives, the skeletons of trees become new
with leaves and blooms, the birds return from more southern
regions and temperatures warm. The beaches become littered
with sunbathers gravitating toward ultraviolet rays beaming
from our closest star, the sun.
Despite all of these beautiful rebirths, it proves useful to
situate the hope accompanying a New Year in the middle of
winter to add something fresh and optimistic to the icy grip
of early January.
Pope Gregory XIII apparently thought a festive day in the
middle of a dreary winter was God’s will, and the
Christian world soon fell in line.
The French who refused to obey this mandate and continued to
start their year along with spring were soon labeled fools
and became the brunt of practical jokes.
If you were the victim of a joke in France you were called a
“poisson d’avril,” or “April
Fish,” because a young, naive fish is easily caught.
The French find it entertaining to tape a picture of a fish
on the backs of their peers, just as many American youth do
with “kick me” signs.
It wasn’t until 1752 that England and the American
colonies officially changed over to the Gregorian calendar.
In Portugal today, you could get flour thrown in your face
and in just about any country that participates, including
Scotland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Germany and more, you
could be sent on a “fool’s errand” as part
of the day’s celebration.
Pranks, such as Taco Bell announcing the purchase of the
Liberty Bell and renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell, have
plagued our media in recent years.
In 1992, National Public Radio’s “Talk of the
Nation” program revealed the news that Richard Nixon
was running for president again with the slogan of “I
didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it
Burger King stirred up some controversy in 1998 by
publishing a full-page advertisement in USA Today to promote
its new “Left-Handed Whopper” that rotated the
condiments by 180 degrees for the convenience of 32 million
The lighthearted acceptance of our foolishness is the most
valuable part of this day, and the real comedy lies in how
seriously we usually take ourselves, despite our actions
often lacking any real importance or integrity.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens put it best when he said,
“The first of April is the day we remember what we are
the other 364 days of the year.”