The History of April Fools’ Day

The History of April Fools’ Day

You might either love it or hate it, but April Fools’ Day is a part of our culture. Some people like to play tricks on friends and relatives on this particular day, but even the devoted fans of this tradition won’t tell you where and when it appeared.

That’s not surprising because the origin of April Fools’ Day is a mystery that the historians have been trying to solve for a long time. There are a few theories as to the holiday’s origin, but none of them is particularly persuasive. We’ll introduce you to some of them.

Calendar Change

One of the most plausible theories says that April Fools’ Day appeared due to the calendar reform in France. The change moved the beginning of a year from March to January, which caused a backlash from some conservatives. They refused to accept the reforms and eventually became the objects for trickery from the supporters of new rules. The paper fish became a symbol of these pranks, and hence the name April Fish, which has been in use till nowadays, is the French name of this custom.

Literary References

When trying to find the roots of some traditions, many historians appeal to literature. April Fools’ Day is not an exception. Sadly, the majority of such references are obscure and can be interpreted in various ways.

Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales (1392) mentioned an adventure of an arrogant cock who was tricked by a sly fox. Some scholars understood the phrase describing chronology as referring to April 1 and thus the day of fools. However, the majority of the scholars now tend to think that the author meant May 3 instead.

Eloy d’Amerval (1508) was another writer who slipped the “April Fish” into his writing. Was it a deliberate reference to April 1 or a mere metaphor for a foolish person? No one will ever know.

Eduard De Dene (1561) from Flanders seems to have had the most obvious description of the April 1 tradition while telling a story about a master who enjoyed to give his servant ridiculous tasks on that day.

Another theory suggests that April Fools’ Day is nothing else but a traditional renewal festival, which is a common feature of almost every culture. The only thing that is clear is that this custom has been entertaining people for many centuries and will continue doing this in the future.