In Search of Practical April Fools – A Brief History of April Fool’s Day

Wearing nothing but my trusted Batman pajamas, I crept silently into the kitchen. Giggling to myself, I reached for the shakers, and, my hands trembling with heady excitement, deftly went to work with a devilish gleam in my eye. An hour later, watching dear old mom pour salt from the pepper shaker sent me into convulsions of laughter. My first April Fool’s Day mission was a success. Naturally, over time, as I matured, my stunts became more complex. Soon friends were ending up in jail and loved ones were getting fired from their jobs. What fun!

What drives otherwise sane, mature adults (not that I’m claiming to be either) to pull such silly pranks? It’s a tradition, of course, one whose origin is of considerable dispute. It may date back to early Roman times: Before 154 B.C., April 1st was New Year’s Day and marked the first day of spring. Numerous celebrations (including the Roman Hilaria Festival, honbigstock-Clown-businessman-in-funny-bus-23779583-678x1024oring the goddess of nature) marked the renewal of earth and life. Christians later replaced the spring rituals with a little something called Easter, and anyone that still celebrated the old rituals was ridiculed (and probably had their salt and pepper shakers tampered with.)

Another possible origin goes back to 1564, when King Charles IX, perhaps a tad bored, moved the start of the new year from April to January. Many folks refused to change with the times (the fools) and continued to celebrate New Year’s between March 25th and April 1st. The more progressive French mocked these spring revelers by sending them silly gifts and invitations to parties that didn’t exist (were they a bunch of kidders, or what?).

Still others suggest the timing close to the vernal equinox reflects the role nature plays fooling people with sudden changes in the weather. Or perhaps it’s as simple as folks wanting to blow off a little steam after a long winter.

Whatever the origin, April Fool’s Day (a.k.a. All Fools Day) hit its stride in 18th century England, when making fools became a regular custom. The tradition was hauled to North America by the English, French and Scots. Favorite early jokes were known as “fool’s errands,” where people were sent to look for something that didn’t exist, such as logic in government policies.

Today, April Fool’s pranks are practiced in a number of different forms throughout the world.

In France, the fooled person is known as the “poisson d’Avril” (April fish). In India, after a five-day festival ending March 31st, Hindus celebrate the feast of Huli with acts of mischief. Bulgaria has it’s own Humor and Fun Day, while in Scotland it’s called hunting the gowk (cuckoo).

The Scots go all out, celebrating for 48 hours. Their second day of festivities is known as Taily Day, dedicated to pranks involving the buttocks (made easier, I’m sure, by the wearing of kilts). And although Canadians may not revel in mischief as much as other nationalities, we did have the good political sense to alter the planned date of Newfoundland’s entry into confederation from April 1st to March 31st . (Someone obviously had the foresight to recognize that Newfoundland would be the brunt end of too many jokes, either that, or someone got cold feet and pulled the plug on what could have been this country’s greatest April Fool’s Day joke ever).

Now, a word of caution before you set out in search of the perfect prank. Each year in the United States an average of fourteen people are killed by practical jokes gone awry. A few years ago, for example, a Floridian died of a heart attack after co-workers tossed a large rubber snake into the hole where the man was working.

So this All Fool’s Day, do have fun making fools but please, for goodness sake, practice safe humor.

*For a list of some April Fool jokes sent in by Humor at Work  e-zine readers, cruise on over to: Practical and Impractical April Fool’s Day Jokes at Work


Michael Kerr is a very funny Canadian business motivational speaker, trainer and the author of  “the Humor Advantage,” “Putting Humor to Work,” and “Inspiring Workplaces.” You can reach Michael at 1-(866)-609-2640 or mike@mikekerr.com . For more humor at work articles, DVDs and other humor at work resources, surf on over to www.mikekerr.com  and be sure to sign up for the raved about weekly e-zine full of awesome ideas –  Humor at Work.

Copyright © 2016, Michael Kerr. All rights reserved.
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