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The Origins of April Fool’s Day

We all love April 1st because it gives us an excuse to pull crazy pranks on the people we care about most. April Fool’s Day might be a day your average trickster looks forward to  since it’s perhaps the only acceptable day to pull all sorts of pranks on people. If you’re the trickster, you’ve probably already thought about what you might do and who you might prank. But if you’re always on the receiving end, I’d guess you’re already planning on trying to avoid being the butt of the joke by taking your revenge.

Whether you’re the prankster or not, April Fool’s is all in good fun.

Photo courtesy of kidzworld.com.

We’ve all participated in a joke or two on April 1st, but where exactly did the holiday begin? The origins are actually quite mysterious, with various scholars speculating about the day’s true origins.

One scholar thinks that April Fool’s Day may have gotten its start in the 1500s when France decided to switch to a different type of calendar. Some people weren’t quick to catch on that the New Year got moved to January 1st and continued to celebrate the New Year the week leading up to April 1st. Those people were made fun of by having paper fish placed on their back, referred to as “poisson d’avril” (which means April fish), and marked as a gullible person.

Other historians cite ancient festivals as the origin of April Fool’s. One such ancient festival was called Hilaria and celebrated in Rome. Hilaria involved people dressing in disguises, which may be one reason why April Fool’s today is so mischievous.

Photo courtesy of columbusunderground.com.

Another theory is that April Fool’s is rooted in the changing of seasons. Mother Nature, supposedly, “fooled” people with radically shifting weather (i.e. winter to spring). This theory seems to be a bit weak, though. If there’s an April Fool’s Day in Spring, why isn’t there one for the other seasonal shifts in the year?

Whichever theory is correct, they all have similar themes of fooling or outwitting others. April Fool’s is celebrated all around the world and various countries have different customs when it comes to the celebrating the day.

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, corporate companies have gotten involved in the pranking as well. Just last year, Netflix pranked its subscribers by putting sarcastic banners across their titles that said, “Go outside” and “Walk the dog,” among various others. The increasingly popular hammocking company, Eno, posted all over their social media pages that they had created a new type of hammocking–the Aquanest, an underwater hammock. There’s no doubt that this year we’ll be seeing all sorts of other wacky pranks from well-known companies and brands.

Photo courtesy of Eno’s Facebook.

April Fool’s day, which falls on a Friday this year, will most definitely be an interesting like always. While you wait for the most mischievous day of the year to arrive, here’s a video of some great (sometimes just plain mean) pranks to get you in the April Fool’s spirit.


April Fool’s historical information found at history.com.

Sarah is a senior at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, majoring in Creative Writing (with a Certificate in Publishing) and minoring in English and Psychology.  She is from a small suburb of the Twin Cities in Minnesota and chose to attend UNCW for all of the incredible learning opportunities.  Besides being a contributing writer and managing editor for Her Campus magazine, she is Secretary of Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity, member of the UNCW Rock Climbing Club, and a Trip Leader at Seahawk Adventures.  She is an avid reader, writer, and lover of all things outdoors.  Feel free to follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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