Tuesday was every jokester’s favorite holiday, April Fools’ Day. Hopefully you didn’t suffer through any humiliating pranks. Seeing of the shenanigans of April 1st made me wonder, why do we celebrate such a ridiculous holiday anyways? The history of April Fools’ Day is a bit ambiguous but it is believed that the holiday originated when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in the 1500s. At this time, the New Year was moved from April to January. Those who kept the April date were called fools. It’s not only Americans who enjoy the buffoonery of this day; many countries around the world celebrate April 1st in one-way or another. Here are some of the most interesting traditions.
In Scotland the holiday lasts two days. The first day is known as Hunt the Gook Day. The idea is to send someone out on a fool’s errand. You ask someone to deliver a sealed message, the contents of which the recipient passes on and continues the game. The second day is know as Taily Day in which you put “Kick me” signs on people’s back.
In France, April 1st is referred to as Poisson d'Avril, which translates to "April Fish." The term refers to the fish that are recently hatched and therefore naïve and easy to catch. The traditional prank is to tape a paper fish on to someone’s back and wait for it to be discovered.
The 13th day of the Persian New Year is called Sizdah Bedar, and usually falls on April 1 or April 2. Pranks have reportedly been played on this holiday since 536 BC, making it perhaps the oldest known joke day. People traditionally spend the day outside picnicking and playing games. After the picnic, you throw away all green vegetables, which traditionally represent potential illness or bad luck for the coming year.
Poland’s joke day called, Prima Aprillis, often includes dressing up in costume and playing pranks on unsuspecting strangers. Additionally, the media likes to plan elaborate pranks often times involving public institutions to make it look more believable. The holiday is taken so seriously that the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on April 1, 1683 was backdated to March 31.
5. Denmark and Sweden
Danes and Swedes have two prank days. In addition to April 1st they also celebrate Maj-kat on May 1st. When someone has been fooled in Sweden, to disclose that it was a joke, the fooler says the rhyme "april april din dumma sill, jag kan lura dig vart jag vill" ("April, April, you stupid herring, I can fool you to wherever I want") for April 1 jokes, or "maj maj måne, jag kan lura dig till Skåne" (May May moon, I can fool you into Scania) for May 1 jokes.
April fools day in Canada is very similar to the celebration in the Unites States. One interesting occurrence on April Fools day in Canada is that skeptic James Randi gives out awards entitled Pigasus Awards that seek to expose paranormal or psychic frauds or ridicule institutions that promote paranormal claims. Past Pigasus award winners include The McDonnell Foundation, who gave $500,000 to Washington University in St. Louis to study spoon-bending children; and the City Council of Auckland, New Zealand, for a NZ$2,500 (US$1,800) grant to the Foundation For Spiritualist Mediums "to teach people to communicate with the dead.
So if you pranking attempts failed this year, perhaps next year you can adopt some of these diverse traditions to brighten your April 1st.
Make sure to mark your calendar next year so you do not fall for any pranks.