April Fools' Day 2015 is almost here. That is no joke.
April 1 is famously the day when jokers and pranksters get their kicks by conning the unsuspecting and gullible among us with sometimes cruel but always fun tricks. If you get satisfaction from fooling others, this day is for you. If you're one of those people that gets easily fooled, you might just want to call in sick that day and not leave your house or interact with the outside world at all, for that matter.
But who would create such a potentially dastardly day, and why would we continue to celebrate it? Unfortunately, like many holidays and customs we observe every year, no one really knows the exact origins of April Fools' Day. However, there are plenty of theories as to how this day came about, although who's to say which are legitimate and which may be jokes that keep on getting told? Well, that's the fun — and frustration — of April Fools' Day, I suppose.
In any case, these six facts about the history and origins of April Fools' Day are sure to help you celebrate the holiday right.
1. It May Have Religious Origins
Though April Fools' Day is not a religious holiday, its origins may be related to religion, which is surprising, considering this day encourages activities you probably wouldn't learn in Sunday School. Many trace the origins of April Fools' Day back to 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII adopted the Gregorian Calendar (yup, it's named after him), effectively moving New Year's Day from the end of March to Jan. 1. Though the change was widely publicized, some people didn't get the memo, while others simply didn't want to transition to the new calendar, so they continued to ring in the New Year at the end of March. Those who didn't make the change were mocked for their folly and called "April Fools."
2. Everyone's Got A Theory
As with most traditions that are ingrained in our culture today, some don't think this calendar change was the start of April Fools' Day and have offered up other theories. Some believe that the origins of April Fools' Day go back to the Ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, which celebrated the resurrection of the god Attis and involved dressing up in disguises. There were several other renewal festivals like this in Europe that April Fools' Day may have grown out of because revelers played pranks and there was a sort of "anything goes" attitude adopted. However, the fact that some April Fools' Day origin stories are pranks in and of themselves doesn't help.
3. It Really Took Off In 18th Century England
April Fools' Day as we know it today became popular around 1700 in England. Without Netflix, what else were they going to do for fun?
4. Celebrations Aren't The Same In Every Country
Americans know that on April Fools' Day, it's either prank or be pranked. However, countries around the world bring their own unique flavor to the revelry. The holiday is known as Poisson d'Avril in France, which means "April Fish" in English. Accordingly, children tape a picture of a fish on the backs of their classmate and wait until they discover it. Scotland's version of April Fools' Day is a two-day affair with Hunt the Gowk Day on April 1, where people are sent out to deliver fake messages, and Taily Day, which is all about pranks involving people's behinds and may have inspired the "Kick Me" sign. The 13th day of the Persian New Year known as Sizdah Bedar usually falls on April 1 or April 2 in Iran, and people have reportedly played pranks during this holiday since 536 B.C. On this holiday, which is usually celebrated outside, it's also customary to throw away green vegetables called sabzeh, which represents getting rid of any bad luck for the coming year.
5. People Have Gone Crazy All In The Name Of Pranks
People get really into April Fools' Day, you guys, and these famous pranks throughout history are mind-blowingly good. In 1957, the BBC fooled viewers into thinking that the Swiss were not only growing spaghetti on trees, but that they also had a shortage of the crop. Since 1986, a press release for a phoney April Fools' Day parade in New York has circulated. Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in six of the country's major newspapers in 1996 saying that the fast food chain had purchased the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell, which many Americans did not find amusing. I can't wait to see who offends, I mean, makes us laugh this year.
6. April Fools' Day On The Internet Is The Best
It seems like the Internet has made it so much easier to organize an April Fools' Day prank on a large scale. Google, YouTube and Hulu have organized hilarious and nearly believable April Fools' Day pranks in the past. Plus, any company or individual with a Twitter account can now send out a practical joke in 140 characters or less, which they do in droves. Come this April Fools' Day, if you're looking for a good time, look no further than the Internet.
Photo: JD Hancock | Flickr