Where did April Fools’ Day Come From?

Today is officially April Fools’ Day, the day when pranks and pranksters abound.

Playing jokes and tricking people, celebrated in many different cultures, has been around for centuries, but no one knows its origins for sure.

My favorite theory is April Fool’s Day is of French origin and dates back to 1582 when the Council of Trent required the French to switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

King Charles IX declared New Year’s Day to be April 1 which meant the traditional Boxing Day gift exchange on the first day of the New Year was moved to the new date in April.

Many honored the new date and presented their family and friends with gifts, mainly fish because April 1 falls within Lent, the 40-day period when meat consumption is forbidden.

Those who embraced the new calendar started to mock the reluctant ones, offering false presents and playing tricks on them. Those who are tricked or fooled are called April Fools or Poisson d’avril (April Fish).

Eventually the real fish tradition evolved into the exchange of fish-shaped cakes then paper fish associated with jokes and hoaxes.

School-aged children in France design paper fish to stick on the back of some unsuspecting person. Much like children in the US kick me signs.

April Fools’ Day is a popular, widespread day but not an official public holiday in any of the many countries where it’s recognized. No one seems to want to grant formal recognition to a day that allows attaching paper fish or playing pranks on unsuspecting folks.

Wherever April Fools’ Day originated, it’s a perfect day to enjoy some laughter with family, friends, and coworkers. A few smiles and laughs are important for a balanced life, don’t you think?

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