April Fools’ Day Traditions Around The World
History of April Fools’ Day
April Fools’ Day and its traditions of pranks and practical jokes are primarily practiced in Western countries. Some historians point to early traditions of the French, while others go back as far as Roman times during the Festival of Hilaria, when jokes and tricks were played on people as part of vernal equinox/New Year’s celebrations that took place from March 25-April 1.
New Year’s celebrations switched to January 1 in 45 B.C. when Julius Caesar adopted the Julian calendar, which did away with the previous lunar calendar and followed the solar year as the Egyptian calendar did.
During the Middle Ages the practice of celebrating the new year on January 1 fell away and March 25-April 1 once again began the new year for most people throughout Europe. This was the rule until the Gregorian Calendar was adopted in 1582 by the Roman church and it has stuck. After that, people who went by the old date of April 1 and didn’t change to the January 1 celebration of the New Year were called fools.
Next: April Fools’ Day Traditions Around The World
France and Italy
In France, April Fools’ Day is celebrated with the custom of “Poisson d’Avril,” or “April Fish.” Italy is also known for its “Pesce d’Aprile.” The day’s most popular prank involves children taping a picture of a fish on an adult’s back and laughing until it is discovered by the wearer.
The Scots celebrate April 1 and 2 as part of April Fools’ Day. On April 1 they enjoy “taking the mickey” out of their friends by sending them on a fool’s errand called “Hunt the Gowk day.” Gowk is a British term for “cuckoo” or “fool.” This involved sending a sealed message asking for help and initiating the fools’ errand. When the fool discovered the trick they were urged to pass it along to someone else.
April 2 was called Tailie day which is similar to the French and Italian “April Fish” events, only the Scots preferred to attach fake tails onto people’s backs. This is suspected to be the origin of “kick me” sign pranks.
People in northern parts of Greece believed the first of April was a special day and made sure to collect any rainwater that fell on that day for therapeutic properties they believed it held to be used throughout the year if illness occurred.
Pranks in Greece came in the form of innocent lies to gain good luck. Good fortune in the new year would follow those who were successful in their trickery.
As the Greeks were known for their fishermen and fishing season opened on the new year, the tendency to lie about the size of their catch was connected to fishermen and their “fish stories” told all year.
April Fools’ celebrations in Portugal were focused around the Sunday and Monday before the beginning of Lent. The prank for the day seen as having a truly Portuguese origin is that of throwing flour on a companion.
The Iranian holiday Sizdah Bedar usually falls on April 1 or 2. This holiday and pranks being played go all the way back to 536 B.C. This celebration of end of the Iranian New Year involves outdoor feasting, picnics, games, jokes and laughter. The day would end with the tossing away of green vegetables, or sabzeh. This was to symbolically throw away any bad luck or illnesses that could come in the new year.
Most likely brought to India by the British Empire, India’s April Fools’ Day traditions are linked to their spring festival called Holi. Activities for Holi involve playing jokes, tossing colored dust and wearing face and body paint throughout the festival.
Denmark and Sweden
The Danish and Swedish celebrate days of fun where they let loose after a long gloomy winter. Not only do they celebrate April Fools’ Day on April 1, but they also have a joke day on May 1.
So whether you hunt the gowk, tape a fish, toss away greens or catch rainwater, enjoy a safe and fun April Fools’ Day!