April Fools’ Day Date in the current year: April 1, 2019

April Fools’ Day April Fools’ Day is one of the jolliest and funniest holidays of the year (of course, if it’s you who plays harmless pranks on other people, and not the other way around). This unofficial observance is known and loved in many countries, primarily in the Western World. It is celebrated on April 1.

There are several theories concerning the origin of April Fools’ Day. Some scholars believe that the observance was first mentioned in The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, but it is not clear whether Chaucer indeed referenced April 1 in his manuscript.

According to one of the most popular theories, April Fools’ Day is related to the old tradition of celebrating New Year in spring. Before the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, New Year in most European cultures was celebrated on or around the March equinox. In some regions, the celebration lasted for several days, ending on April 1. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted, those who celebrated New Year on January 1 started to make fun of those who still celebrated it in spring, which eventually transformed into April Fools’ Day.

Be that as it may, April Fools’ Day has been a popular observance in many countries since the 19th century, although it’s not a public holiday anywhere. People celebrate it by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes, and those who fall victims to these pranks and hoaxes are referred to as April fools.

In some countries, there are longstanding customs associated with April Fools’ Day. For instance, in the UK the holiday ceases at noon, after which it is considered unacceptable to play jokes. Before noon, the recipients of April Fool jokes are referred to as “April fools”, whereas after noon, it is people playing jokes who are considered April fools.

In Poland, the holiday is known as prima aprilis (“April 1” in Latin). Just like in the UK, most people here consider joking after noon inappropriate. Before noon, however, every word can be a joke or a lie. Even media participate in preparing and spreading hoaxes, often cooperating to make them more believable.

In the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden), most media limit themselves to publishing one hoax on April 1. Newspapers usually print false stories on the first page but not as the top headline.

French-speaking countries (France, Belgium, parts of Canada and Switzerland), the Netherlands and Italy have an April Fools’ Day tradition known as “April fish”. It involves attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed. In addition, false stories published by newspapers often contain subtle references to a fish as a clue that it’s actually a joke.

Generally, people’s opinions are divided when it comes to April Fools’ Day. Some think that the holiday’s jokes, pranks and hoaxes are a good thing because they make people laugh; others point out hat not all April Fool’s jokes are funny and harmless, and that media hoaxes can be taken seriously and lead to misinformation and confusion.

Interestingly, in many Spanish countries the niche of April Fools’ Day is already taken by Holy Innocents Day celebrated in late December. Originally a Christian feast, it has become a day for pranks, equivalent to April Fools’ Day.

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Category

International Observances, Unofficial Holidays

Tags

April Fools’ Day, April fish, practical jokes, pranks, hoaxes, informal observances, international observances