Will You be the April Fool?

We are all used to pranks occurring on the 1st April – maybe siblings will swap the contents of sugar and salt containers to catch each other out, perhaps the news will report outrageous fictional claims that fool audiences… but why do we pull such pranks on this day, and where did it all begin?

Unsure of the exact origins, some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian calendar, meaning the new year began on January 1st instead of the spring equinox around April 1st.

People who hadn’t yet caught on about the move of the new year became the butt of jokes and pranks, called ‘April Fools’. These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as ‘poisson d’avril’ (April fish), said to symbolise young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.

There’s also a theory that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, (first day of spring) because of Mother Nature fooling people with unpredictable, quick changing weather.

April Fools’ Day gained popularity in Scotland during the 18th century, becoming a two-day event. It traditionally started with ‘hunting the gowk’ (gowk meaning cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool), in which people were sent on phony errands, followed by Tailie Day which involved pranks being placed on people’s behinds, such as pinning fake tails or ‘kick me’ signs on them.

Despite its uncertain origins, April Fools’ Day continues to be celebrated year after year, catching out those unfortunate few who fall for the days’ hijinks.