The true history behind April Fools’ Day

Every year on 1 April, practical jokes are actively encouraged. But why is this?

There are various theories to its origin. One such notion tracks the custom back to the Hilaria festival in Ancient Rome while another attributes it to the Indian Holi celebration.

Both of these were held in March not April but another idea links it to its 1 April date. The Gregorian or Western calendar originated in France in 1582. This changed the New Year from April to January. Some people however still insisted on celebrating on April the 1st so they were known from then on as ‘fools’.

Customs also differ between countries. While in England it is generally centred on jokes and pranks that must stop at midday, in France, for example, children pin paper fish to friends’ backs and that is the ‘fooled’ person.

Famous April Fools’ Day pranks include the spaghetti tree hoax in 1955 when the BBC ran a broadcast showing spaghetti growing from trees in Switzerland. Even better was in Sweden in 1962 when it was announced that putting a pair of tights on the television screen would make it change from black and white to colour.

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