Column: The Mysterious Origins of April Fools’ Day

Last Updated on

729 views

By Brian Angus | bangus@radford.edu

The origins of April Fools’ Day are quite blurry. After searching and searching for an answer as to why we celebrate April Fools’, I came up with only speculations. However, some speculations were more popular than others.

According to History.com, April Fools’ Day may have started when France switched to the Gregorian calendar back in 1582. Changing the calendar moved their new year from the end of Mar. to Jan. 1.

Keep in mind that communication wasn’t as easy and fast then as it is today, so some were not aware of the change to the calendar; therefore they still celebrated at the end of March. The people who were aware of the change found the unawareness comical and laughed at those who weren’t up to date.

What’s interesting is the popularity of this holiday, even though it seems that its origins aren’t traceable. It’s like we have all just collectively agreed that this is something we want to do once a year. April Fools’ Day doesn’t serve a purpose, and it doesn’t help us remember a time or person, it exists because it’s fun.Pranks ensued in the form of placing a paper fish on the backs of such people. The fish represented a young “easily hooked” fish and a gullible person.

The Latin Language Blog mentions that It has also been speculated that April Fools Day stemmed from the Roman festival, Hilaria. The festival was celebrated at the end of March and involved jokes and people dressing up in disguises.

An interesting perspective from daily.jstor.org states that new things are often the victims of pranks. For example, employees of an office may prank the new guy, or fraternities and sororities may set up an act of initiation.

Since April 1 is close to the spring equinox, April Fools’ Day could be considered the initiation into spring.

I would add that perhaps when spring comes around people start getting out more, and after being kept inside during the winter, we are ready to get out and release the wild energy that has been stored, and maybe through some pranks.

What’s interesting is the popularity of this holiday, even though it seems that its origins aren’t traceable. It’s like we have all just collectively agreed that this is something we want to do once a year. April Fools’ Day doesn’t serve a purpose, and it doesn’t help us remember a time or person, it exists because it’s fun.

Maybe, that right there is the real reason we celebrate April Fools’ Day, because it’s fun.

Photo Credit: (Braydon Anderson | Unsplash; Charles 🇵🇭 | Unsplash)