By Milan Nguyen
No matter the day, everyone enjoys a good laugh. One day in particular that brings out the jokester in everyone is April Fools’ Day. April Fools’, which was recently celebrated, is a holiday during which pranksters are free to pull pranks, people can get even, and others hope that they are not victims.
The unconventional nature of the holiday has many people wondering why it was created in the first place. Others simply dread being the butt of numerous jokes, believing that April Fools’ is an insignificant or made-up holiday. This brings up an important question about April Fools’ day and its origins: why do we pull pranks and tell jokes in celebration of the first of April?
One widely accepted theory about the origins of this holiday ties in with France. In the late 1500s, France decided to switch over to the Gregorian calendar from a pagan calendar system based on the position of the sun. However, due to the lack of mass communication during that time period, not everyone got the message about the change in calendars. They thought that the new year still began on the spring equinox.
So, when people started to celebrate the beginning of the new year on the first day of spring, they were called fools. These “fools” were then sent on ridiculous errands or made to believe blatant lies. Today, the French still have a tradition of sticking paper fish on others and calling them “April’s Fish.” Over the centuries, the tradition has spread and evolved into the modern April Fools’ Day.
While this is a popular explanation for the day, others believe that April Fools’ Day is a pseudo-successor to the Greco-Roman holiday Hilaria. Hilaria was a series of celebrations in honor of the mother of the gods, Cybele. It took place during the spring equinox, marking the end of winter.
Celebrations often included parades, masquerades, and pranks.
It is very likely that this holiday was assimilated into other cultures in Europe that also celebrated the spring equinox. The festival then morphed into regional celebrations of the start of spring.
A commonality between either origin is the use of pranks as a way to welcome spring. It is similar to how, on Halloween, people scare one another to terrorize the living and other evil spirits as a way to signal the start of winter. April Fools’ did originate in Europe, and that can play a large factor in why other countries that celebrate the holiday aren’t very akin to its purpose.
Overall, nowadays April Fools’ is recognized as a day for people to pull harmless pranks on friends; however, its meaning goes beyond a simple day of fun. While it can seem like a childish holiday to some reluctant observers, its history is just as rich as the meaning behind countless other cultural celebrations.