- Published: 26 March 2018
As we say goodbye to a snowy March (what was that all about?) we thought we’d look ahead to April.
Our Top 5 this month is dedicated to just one day in April, April Fool’s Day. The one day of the year dedicated to jokes and pranks. It has been around for ages, but we were wondering, how and when did it actually start?
There are a number of theories out there, but we’re not sure how true they actually are…
Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote a poem in 1561 about a nobleman who hatched a plan to send his servant back and forth on absurd errands on April 1st. However, the servant soon realised that he was the subject of a joke. In the poem the servant is quoted as saying "I am afraid... that you are trying to make me run a fool's errand." However, there is no real indication to why the nobleman sent the servant on pointless tasks.
April Fish Day
A theory that dates back hundreds of year in France suggests that April Fool’s Day originated because of the abundance of fish that can be found in French streams and rivers during early April. Newly hatched fish were easy to fool with a hook and lure, and therefore, the French called them 'Poisson d'Avril' or 'April Fish.' Soon it became customary to fool people on April 1st.
Change in Calendars
The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool's Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century. In 1564 France reformed its calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1st. Those who failed to keep up with the change, and celebrated the old calendar system, were made fun of and had jokes played on them.
British folklore links April Fool's Day to the town of Gotham in Nottinghamshire. In the 13th Century, it was tradition for any road that the King placed his foot on to become public property. So when the good people of Gotham heard that the King was planning a visit, they pretended to be lunatics and engaged in foolish activities such as drowning fish or attempting to catch birds in roofless cages. The King fell for their act and declared the town too foolish to warrant punishment, therefore ‘saving’ their road and stating a new tradition.
Ancient festivals to celebrate the end of winter and the return of spring, also known as "Renewal Festivals" were often celebrated with forms of mayhem and misrule. People would often wear disguises and play pranks on friends and strangers, but just like April Fool’s day today, this only lasted until midday, when order would be restored.
So just like us, you’re probably still left with more questions than answers. So we’ve given up trying to find out how and why, and we’re happy to go along with this weird tradition.