The History and Tradition of April Fool’s DayPosted: 1st of April 2015 by
Today (April 1) is April Fools’ Day. While not a recognised holiday in any country, there will be those who dread the day full of pranks and practical jokes, while some relish the chance to play tricks on others. Recognised in countries including Canada, Australia, Brazil, and the United States, April Fool’s Day even has an impact on the media, with many outlets enjoying the chance to make up false reports to try and trick the public. But where did the tradition start, and why?
The custom of playing tricks on others on a particular day is not new, nor is it something only associated with the first of April. The Roman festival of Hilaria and India’s Holi festival are just two, but the origins of April 1st as a day of practical joking may itself be a mistake!
Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ may be to blame. Witten back in 1392, the tales included the ‘Nun’s Priests Tale,’ where Chaucer wrote of a date ‘thrity days and two’ after March began – ie: 1st of April. While some believe that the date was actually supposed to be 32 days after the end of March (May 2), the April 1st date has stuck. Chaucer wrote of how a trick was played by a fox, possibly being the first example of an ‘April Fool’s’ joke.
Despite these roots in the middle ages, the first definite instance of an April Fool’s joke in Britain came in 1698, when people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed.” The tradition grew from here and spread to other countries that had traditions derived from the UK – such as the United States, Canada, and Australia.
The tradition also includes a cut-off point of midday, at which point the person playing the prank is said to be considered the ‘April Fool’ instead.
However, Scottish tradition points to ‘Huntigowk Day,’ also held on April 1st, the name is no longer used, but is believed to have come from ‘Hunt The Gowk.’ A ‘gowk’ being Scots for a cuckoo or foolish person. The traditional prank played here being to get someone to deliver a message requesting help. However, the message merely reads, "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile," meaning that the ‘gowk’ should be sent on with the same message to another person, and so on! The same tradition existed in Ireland, where the idea was to “send the fool further.”
There are also April 1st traditions of playing tricks in Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Sweden.
Of course, these days, with the advent of social media, it is easier than ever to play a prank on a wider audience. Rather than just tricking one person, media outlets are able to fool millions of people.
When done in the right spirit, an April Fool’s joke can be light-hearted and fun, but this is sadly not always the case, with some jokes becoming nasty and some people even mislead by misinformation. There are also complaints about the misuse of resources to play jokes in the media, and the potential dangerous consequences of an ill-conceived joke.
So, enjoy the day and any jokes that are played, but try to keep things in context. Also remember, if the prank comes after 12, it doesn’t count.
Have you spotted any April Fool’s jokes today?
You might also like:
5 Steps To Keep You Grounded At Work, School, Or College
Overcome Your Fears and Create The Future You Want
Are Negative Stereotypes Holding Young People Back?
When you are looking for an apprenticeship, or your first job, it’s probable that most of your attention will be focused on landing the role. ...
Applying for an apprenticeship can be a very competitive process and many organisations use video interviews as an initial screening process. Most...