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Modern Mysteries

What are the origins of April Fools' Day ?

By T.K. Randall
April 1, 2020 · Comment icon 4 comments

Why do we prank people on April Fools' Day ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 J.B. / naturegirl 78
We celebrate it each year by pulling pranks on one another, but nobody is quite sure how it all started.
From the BBC's infamous 'Swiss Spaghetti Harvest' Panorama news report to Netflix's public service announcements warning its users about the dangers of binge-watching, April Fools' Day shenanigans have long been a staple of April 1st across the world.

With the usual japery put on hold this year due to the coronavirus pandemic however, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at just where this bizarre tradition actually came from.

As it turns out, nobody seems to be able to agree on precisely when and where it originated.

One common theory is that it came from The Nun's Priest's Tale - one of the stories in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales which were written between 1387 and 1400.
In it, one of the characters - Chauntecleer - is tricked by a fox on "Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two", which some believe to be a reference to April 1st.

Not all experts agree on this however, with some interpreting this to mean May 2nd instead.

In France, the first known mention of April Fools' Day was thought to be in 1508 by French poet Eloy d'Amerval who referenced "poisson d'avril", which translates to "fish of April".

Others believe that the day originated in the Middle Ages when New Year's Day was sometimes celebrated between March 25th and the beginning of April. It is thought that people who celebrated New Year on January 1st were mocked for it, thus the idea of April Fools' Day was born.

As things stand however, nobody is quite sure which of these theories (if any) is correct.

Source: | Comments (4)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Desertrat56 3 years ago
I had a neighbor who listened to a radio station all day long every day, and she stayed home so never remembered what day it was.  3 years in a row she called me on April 1st to tell me something so funny, and she thought it was real, because the radio station always had April fools news story, telling it as if it were real.  She would be upset and I would ask her if she knew what day it was and she would say Tuesday and I would say what is the date, then hang upon her.  One I remember was a story that the Cochiti Pueblo was going to block the Rio Grande off and keep people down river from get... [More]
Comment icon #2 Posted by Seti42 3 years ago
"Now who's laughing! Now who's laughing!"  
Comment icon #3 Posted by and then 3 years ago
THIS was the best April Fools gimmick I ever saw.  I took it hook, line and sinker...  
Comment icon #4 Posted by Calibeliever 3 years ago
I heard (many years ago now) that when people switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one, those who didn't recognize (or know) that the new year was January first were celebrating it in late March or early April and got labeled as 'fools'. -shrug- ?

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