Join our weekly newsletter.
Articles, news, and ideas.

Languages, people and their cultures.

In need of a translation or interpreting service? Get a 5% lifetime discount now!

The Story Behind April Fools’ Day

The Story Behind April Fools’ Day
on April, 01 2013

You might have had fun playing some form of tricks, pranks and hoaxes on people on April Fools’ Day. Do be aware of what today is, but still, it’s great to have a good laugh from time to time, isn’t it? However, do you know how the day came to be?

April Fools’ Day isn’t a holiday, yet it is widely observed by thousands of people in several countries around the world. Good humor is the theme of the day, with people delighting in making practical and funny jokes and for some, creating hoaxes, that at times serves as a reminder, a wake-upper or a social commentary.

It is not a day exclusive to the English-speaking countries only. It is commemorated by people of all colors and heritage, speaking different languages. Let us see what April Fools’ Day jokes are dished out in other parts of the globe.

First a bit about its history

The forerunners of April Fools’ Day are Hilaria, a Roman festival observed on March 25 and a medieval-era fools’ feast that was observed on December 28. Hilaria was celebrated in honor of the mother of the gods, Cybele. During the vernal equinox, people were allowed to have amusement and games and a masquerade, with people coming in disguise, imitating any person they like, including magistrates and politicians.

There are many stories on how the day originated. Some say it stemmed from copying errors in the existing manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer. The original passage was [sic] “Syn March was gon,” but the typeset said, [sic] “Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two.” When translated in regular English, it implied “the 32nd day after the month of April” that referred to May 2 but was misinterpreted to stand for March 32, which was the first of April. There were also stories of a nobleman giving foolish errands to his servant on the particular day. A number of people were actually tricked to go to the London Tower and see the washing of some lions on April 1, 1698.

April Fools’ around the world

Belgian, French and Italian adults and children attach paper fishes on the backs of their friends before shouting April fish! In Flemish the English phrase translates to Aprilvis! It is poisson d’avril! in French and pesce d’aprile! in Italian.

Iranians play tricks on one another on the second week of the Nowruz, which could be around the first or second of April in the Gregorian calendar. The term for the tradition is Sizdah Bedar that started in 536 BCE, making it the world’s oldest prank-making tradition.

April Fools’ Day had been played during the Joseon era in Korea, too. On that day the courtiers and the members of the king’s family could fool and lie to each other without fear of punishment. Bowls are filled with snow and sent to victims of the joke. Those who receive bowls with snow are deemed the losers and should grant the senders’ wishes.

The Filipinos were introduced to April Fools’ Day by the British around 1762. They were then occupying the Spanish bastion in Manila. Subjects were made to wear a yellow-colored sash and mocked by other British soldiers, which today evolved into the prank of marking victims with yellow color in many forms.

In Poland, the day is celebrated with plenty of jokes, with the media giving full cooperation by creating “credible information” about hoaxes. The day is called “Prima Aprilis,” which is Latin for the first of April.

The term for this particular day in Scotland is Hunt-the-Gowk-Day. The word gowk is the Scottish word for a daft person or a cuckoo. The prank is a continuous one, with a person having a secured message to a person. The message is read as, [sic] “Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile.” The receiver will then tell the one who delivered the message (the victim) that he could only provide help by contacting someone else. He then sends the messenger to the other person, with a secured message that is the exact copy of the original text.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Join our weekly newsletter for articles, news and ideas

In need of a translation or interpreting service? Get a 5% lifetime discount now!