Why Ist April is observed as April Fools’ Day and other recollections

April Fools’ Day, also called All Fools’ Day, is celebrated every year on April 1 by playing practical jokes and planting hoaxes on friends, neighbours or other close associates but ensuring that no harm is done to them — all in the spirit of fun. The victims of the jokes are called April Fools. People playing April Fool jokes expose their prank by shouting ‘April Fool’ immediately after the person realises that the joke has been played.

While historians still remain unsure about the precise roots of April Fools’ Day, the most popular explanation of its beginnings is considered to lie in the change of calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian one. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ruled the new calendar to start from January 1, instead of the hitherto celebration of new year at the end of March. This change in the annual calendar was first brought into practice by France. But a large number of people all across Europe continued with the Julian calendar. As a result, those who adopted the new calendar started referring to the ones who refused to change as ‘fools’, thereby marking the beginning of a tradition.

One other explanation for the origin of this tradition is that of the spring-time custom of light-hearted merriment that is believed to have been observed across several parts of the world for centuries. For instance, in ancient Rome, a festival called ‘Hilaria’ was celebrated in the last week of March, as the day on which God Attis was resurrected. Similarly in India, Holi is celebrated during the same time of the year as an occasion for playful jubilation by spraying colours on each other. Perhaps we can find the origins of April Fools’ day in the overall atmosphere of merrymaking that has been observed world over for centuries during the time of the year when winter gives way to spring.

Speaking of April Fools’ Day pranks, I recollect one such prank which was played on practically every student and teacher of an institution who were offered nice big tempting ‘Gulab Jamuns’ on April Fools’ Day. The catch was that the Gulab Jamuns were injected with ‘Qunin’ which made them very bitter. It was a lot of fun to see people coming  to enjoy Gulab Jamun  fall prey to the joke.

That said, let’s be careful of such pranks on this day and take it in the spirit in which it is intended.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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