History is Laughing: A Funny Look at the Origins of April Fools' Day

It seems fitting that a holiday celebrating hijinks and tomfoolery would have mysterious origins. As your buddy screams “APRIL FOOLS!” in your face after shoving peanut butter under your car door handle, you may be wondering why such a day exists (and how you’re going to clean out all that peanut butter). So let’s dive in!

One theory suggests that April Fools' Day came about when France got on board with the Gregorian calendar in the mid-1500s, effectively switching their new year from April 1st to the January 1st we’re familiar with today. With mass communication being not-so-mass back then, some people got the news later than others, and were mocked for being “April fools.” This is why you need to keep up with current events, people.

Speaking of France, a renowned French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to an "April Fool" poisson d'avril or quite literally as an "April's Fish". This was because spring time was a time when people would darn their spring clothing, and go out to fields to celebrate the end of winter – and the start of a brand new year. During these festivities most would exchange small gifts, usually food and often fish. But why fish? It could be because it was during a time when meat was forbidden for religious reasons, so people ate quite a bit of seafood. Whatever the reason, fish was a popular New Year’s gift.

And now, as a fun tradition in France, they play the same sort of April Fool's jokes you and I know and love, but instead of saying “April fool!” they say, “poisson d’Avril!” which translates into “April fish!” A favorite “April fish” joke among French children is where they tape a paper fish to someone’s back without them knowing it. That's taking "fishing for laughs" literally! 

Others link this day to an ancient Roman festival called Hilaria (like hilarious?…the plot thickens). Cult members would use the festival as an excuse to wear disguises and go around imitating non-members. Not the nicest cult!

Another theory suggests that Roman Emperor Constantine was convinced by his jesters to make them king for a day. And not just any day…April 1st! Constantine forked over the crown to his in-house comedians, who used their power to declare April 1st would henceforth be recognized as April Fools' Day. Seems hard to believe? Maybe because that theory was made up as an April Fools' Day prank by a Boston University professor. Hopefully his students got some tuition funds back for that one.

You ever hear the expression “a fool’s errand?” Well this traces back to a 1561 poem by Flemish writer Eduard de Dene. It tells a story of a nobleman sending his servant on a series of ridiculous errands on April 1st, only for the servant to realize he’s being toyed with. “I am afraid that you are trying to make me run a fool’s errand,” the servant laments, suggesting he was on to this day of trickery.

So who’s actually responsible for this annual practical jokes purge? Who’s to say? All we know is the laughs continue well into the 21st century. Who knows, maybe humanity as a whole is one elaborate April Fools' Day prank. But don’t get us started on the history of that!

Older Post
Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Close (esc)

Age verification

By clicking enter you are verifying that you are old enough to consume alcohol.


Main menu

Shopping Cart

Your cart is currently empty.
Shop now