There is little in the world more annoying than the flurry of April Fools’ day jokes and pranks that accommodate the first day of April. While this past April Fools’ Day has not been out of the ordinary, the origins of the day are just as annoying as its modern counterpart. Although the history of April Fools’ day is one all too forgotten by most people, some suspect that the day originated in Rome, France, or in India.
While some claim the origins of the holiday can be linked to the Romans or the Indian holiday of Holi, it is most probable that April Fools’ Day, as with most annoying things, originated in France. In the year 1582, France switched calendars from the Julian to Gregorian Calendars, as ordered by the Council of Trent in 1563. As a result, New Years’ Day went from being April 1st to January 1st. The people who clung on to the Julian Calendar and still celebrated the New Year on April 1st were mocked as fools, and April Fool’s Day had begun. Once again, mocking people has become a time honored holiday.
Since then, the day was mainly a French affair, with only sporadic and regional occurrences in which people who were seen as gullible or old fashioned were tricked and goaded by local village people. By the late 1700s however, word spread to neighboring England, and by 1800, the day had become something of a novelty, notably in Scotland which celebrated April Fools’ as a 2 day event. At this time and into the 1810s, children were the largest and practically the only producers of pranks or mischief, but all of that was about to change.
In 1796, the first reference to April Fools’ Day was made in an article calling upon people to go to a made up Fools’ convention in Middletown, Connecticut, a hysterical joke for the time. Not much was made of April Fools’ Day until the 1820s, when newspapers became more widespread. With the increase in media, newspapers all across America and Europe published ridiculous stories to scare or mislead many of the readers, and often the readers fell for what was published.
In recent history, corporations and broadcasting companies have taken up the initiative on April Fools’ Day. The most famous of all the pranks was the 1957 BBC Switzerland Spaghetti harvest, which fooled large numbers of people into thinking spaghetti grew on trees. In recent years, everyone from Taco Bell to NPR have spread falsities or misled their unfortunate customers into believing something isn’t true.
While the day may be tacky and celebrated half-heartedly, April Fools’ has withstood a couple of centuries, and it is very likely that the holiday will remain a few centuries more.