April Fools' Day

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April Fools' Day
Aprilsnar 2001.png
An April Fools' Day prank marking the construction of the Copenhagen Metro in 2001
Also calledApril Fool's Day
TypeCultural, Western
SignificancePractical jokes, pranks
Date1 April
Next time1 April 2022 (2022-04-01)

April Fools' Day or April Fool's Day is an annual custom on 1 April consisting of practical jokes and hoaxes. Jokesters often expose their actions by shouting "April Fools!" at the recipient. Mass media can be involved in these pranks, which may be revealed as such the following day. The day is not a public holiday in any country except Odessa, Ukraine, where the first of April is an official city holiday.[1] The custom of setting aside a day for playing harmless pranks upon one's neighbour has been relatively common in the world historically.[2]


An 1857 ticket to "Washing the Lions" at the Tower of London in London. No such event ever took place.

A disputed association between 1 April and foolishness is in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (1392).[3] In the "Nun's Priest's Tale", a vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox on "Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two",[4] i.e. 32 days since March began, which is 1 April.[5] However, it is not clear that Chaucer was referencing 1 April since the text of the "Nun's Priest's Tale" also states that the story takes place on the day when the sun is "in the signe of Taurus had y-runne Twenty degrees and one", which would not be 1 April. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, "Syn March was gon".[6] If so, the passage would have originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May,[7] the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381.

In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d'avril (April fool, literally "April's fish"), possibly the first reference to the celebration in France.[8] Some writers suggest that April Fools' originated because, in the Middle Ages, New Year's Day was celebrated on 25 March in most European towns,[9] with a holiday that in some areas of France, specifically, ended on 1 April,[10][11] and those who celebrated New Year's Eve on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates by the invention of April Fools' Day.[10][better source needed] The use of 1 January as New Year's Day became common in France only in the mid-16th century,[7] and that date was not adopted officially until 1564, by the Edict of Roussillon, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for during the Council of Trent in 1563.[12]

In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April.[7]

In the Netherlands, the origin of April Fools' Day is often attributed to the Dutch victory in 1572 at Brielle, where the Spanish Duke Álvarez de Toledo was defeated. "Op 1 april verloor Alva zijn bril" is a Dutch proverb, which can be translated as: "On the first of April, Alva lost his glasses". In this case, "bril" ("glasses" in Dutch) serves as a homonym for Brielle. This theory, however, provides no explanation for the international celebration of April Fools' Day.

In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the celebration as "Fooles holy day", the first British reference.[7] On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed".[7]

Although no biblical scholar or historian is known to have mentioned a relationship, some have expressed the belief that the origins of April Fools' Day may go back to the Genesis flood narrative. In a 1908 edition of the Harper's Weekly cartoonist Bertha R. McDonald wrote:

Authorities gravely back with it to the time of Noah and the ark. The London Public Advertiser of March 13, 1769, printed: "The mistake of Noah sending the dove out of the ark before the water had abated, on the first day of April, and to perpetuate the memory of this deliverance it was thought proper, whoever forgot so remarkable a circumstance, to punish them by sending them upon some sleeveless errand similar to that ineffectual message upon which the bird was sent by the patriarch".[2]

Long-standing customs[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

On April Fools' Day 1980, the BBC announced Big Ben's clock face was going digital and whoever got in touch first could win the clock hands.[5]

In the UK, an April Fool prank is sometimes later revealed by shouting "April fool!" at the recipient, who becomes the "April fool". A study in the 1950s, by folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, found that in the UK, and in countries whose traditions derived from the UK, the joking ceased at midday.[13] This continues to be the practice, with the custom ceasing at noon, after which time it is no longer acceptable to play pranks.[14] Thus a person playing a prank after midday is considered the "April fool" themselves.[15]

In Scotland, April Fools' Day was originally called "Huntigowk Day".[13] The name is a corruption of "hunt the gowk", gowk being Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person; alternative terms in Gaelic would be Là na Gocaireachd, "gowking day", or Là Ruith na Cuthaige, "the day of running the cuckoo". The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message that supposedly requests help of some sort. In fact, the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile." The recipient, upon reading it, will explain they can only help if they first contact another person, and they send the victim to this next person with an identical message, with the same result.[13]

In England a "fool" is known by a few different names around the country, including "noodle", "gob", "gobby", or "noddy".


In Ireland, it was traditional to entrust the victim with an "important letter" to be given to a named person. That person would read the letter, then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter when opened contained the words "send the fool further".[16]

Prima aprilis in Poland[edit]

In Poland, prima aprilis ("First April" in Latin) as a day of pranks is a centuries-long tradition. It is a day when many pranks are played: hoaxes – sometimes very sophisticated – are prepared by people, media (which often cooperate to make the "information" more credible) and even public institutions. Serious activities are usually avoided, and generally every word said on 1 April could be untrue. The conviction for this is so strong that the Polish anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on 1 April 1683, was backdated to 31 March.[17] However, for some in Poland prima aprilis ends at noon of 1 April and prima aprilis jokes after that hour are considered inappropriate and not classy.

Nordic countries[edit]

Danes, Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians and Swedes celebrate April Fools' Day (aprilsnar in Danish; aprillipäivä in Finnish; aprilskämt in Swedish). Most news media outlets will publish exactly one false story on 1 April; for newspapers this will typically be a first-page article but not the top headline.[18]

April fish[edit]

In Italy, France, Belgium and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, the 1 April tradition is often known as "April fish" (poisson d'avril in French, april vis in Dutch or pesce d'aprile in Italian). Possible pranks include attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed. This fish feature is prominently present on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools' Day postcards. Many newspapers also spread a false story on April Fish Day, and a subtle reference to a fish is sometimes given as a clue to the fact that it is an April Fools' prank.[citation needed]


April Fools' Day is widely celebrated in Odessa and has the special local name Humorina - in Ukrainian Гуморина (Humorina). This holiday arose in 1973.[19] An April Fool prank is revealed by saying "Первое Апреля, никому не верю" ("Pervoye Aprelya, nikomu ne veryu") - which means "April the First, I trust nobody" - to the recipient. The festival includes a large parade in the city centre, free concerts, street fairs and performances. Festival participants dress up in a variety of costumes and walk around the city fooling around and pranking passersby. One of the traditions on April Fools' Day is to dress up the main city monument in funny clothes. Humorina even has its own logo — a cheerful sailor in lifebelt — whose author was the artist Arkady Tsykun.[20] During the festival, special souvenirs bearing the logo are printed and sold everywhere. Since 2010, April Fools' Day celebrations include an International Clown Festival and both celebrated as one. In 2019, the festival was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Odessa Film Studio and all events were held with an emphasis on cinema.[21]


In Lebanon, an April Fool prank is revealed by saying كذبة أول نيسان (which means "First of April Lie") to the recipient.

Spanish-speaking countries[edit]

In many Spanish-speaking countries (and the Philippines), "Día de los Santos Inocentes" (Holy Innocents Day) is a festivity which is very similar to April Fools' Day, but it is celebrated in late December (27, 28 or 29 depending on the location).[citation needed]


Israel has adopted the custom of pranking on April Fools' Day.[22]


An April Fools' Day prank in Boston's Public Garden warning people not to photograph sculptures, as light emitted will "erode the sculptures"

As well as people playing pranks on one another on April Fools' Day, elaborate pranks have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, and websites, and have been performed by large corporations. In one famous prank in 1957, the BBC broadcast a film in their Panorama current affairs series purporting to show Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss spaghetti harvest. The BBC was soon flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day.[23]

With the advent of the Internet and readily available global news services, April Fools' pranks can catch and embarrass a wider audience than ever before.[24]

Comparable prank days[edit]

28 December[edit]

28 December, the equivalent day in Spain, Hispanic America and the Philippines, is also the Christian day of celebration of the Day of the Holy Innocents. The Christian celebration is a religious holiday in its own right, but the tradition of pranks is not, though the latter is observed yearly. In some regions of Hispanic America after a prank is played, the cry is made, "Inocente palomita que te dejaste engañar" ("You innocent little dove that let yourself be fooled!"; not to be confused with another meaning of palomita, which means "popcorn" in some dialects).

In Argentina, the prankster says, "¡Que la inocencia te valga!" which roughly translates as advice to not be as gullible as the victim of the prank. In Spain, it is common to say just "¡Inocente!" (which in Spanish can mean "innocent" or "gullible").[25]

In Colombia, the term is used as "Pásala por Inocentes", which roughly means: "Let it go; today it's Innocent's Day."

In Belgium, this day is also known as the "Day of the Innocent Children" or "Day of the Stupid Children". It used to be a day where parents, grandparents, and teachers would fool the children in some way. But the celebration of this day has died out in favour of April Fools' Day.

Nevertheless, on the Spanish island of Menorca, Dia d'enganyar ("Fooling day") is celebrated on 1 April because Menorca was a British possession during part of the 18th century. In Brazil, the "Dia da mentira" ("Day of the lie") is also celebrated on 1 April[25] due to the Portuguese influence.

First day of a new month[edit]

In many English-speaking countries, mainly Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, it is a custom to say "pinch and a punch for the first of the month" or an alternative, typically by children. The victim might respond with "a flick and a kick for being so quick", and the attacker might reply with "a punch in the eye for being so sly".[26]

Another custom in Britain and North America is to say "rabbit rabbit" upon waking on the first day of a month, for good luck.[27]


The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial.[15][28] The mixed opinions of critics are epitomized in the reception to the 1957 BBC "spaghetti-tree hoax", in reference to which, newspapers were split over whether it was "a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public".[29]

The positive view is that April Fools' can be good for one's health because it encourages "jokes, hoaxes ... pranks, [and] belly laughs", and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart.[30] There are many "best of" April Fools' Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the day is celebrated.[31] Various April Fools' campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort.[32]

The negative view describes April Fools' hoaxes as "creepy and manipulative", "rude" and "a little bit nasty", as well as based on Schadenfreude and deceit.[28] When genuine news or a genuine important order or warning is issued on April Fools' Day, there is risk that it will be misinterpreted as a joke and ignored – for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools' Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4-megabytes or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright.[33][34] On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion,[35] misinformation, waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger) and even legal or commercial consequences.[36][37]

In Thailand, the police warned ahead of the April Fools' in 2021 that posting or sharing fake news online could lead to maximum of five years imprisonment.[38]

Other examples of genuine news on 1 April mistaken as a hoax include:

In popular culture[edit]

Books, films, telemovies and television episodes have used April Fools' Day as their title or inspiration. Examples include Bryce Courtenay's novel April Fool's Day (1993), whose title refers to the day Courtenay's son died. The 1990s sitcom Roseanne featured an episode titled "April Fools' Day". This turned out to be intentionally misleading, as the episode was about Tax Day in the United States on 15 April – the last day to submit the previous year's tax information. Although Tax Day is usually 15 April as depicted in the episode, it can be moved back a few days if that day is on a weekend or a holiday in Washington, D.C. or some states, or due to natural disasters when it can occur as late as 15 July.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "1 апреля будет в Одессе выходным днем" [1 April becomes a holiday in Odessa]. ФАКТЫ (in Russian). 23 March 2003.
  2. ^ a b McDonald, Bertha R. (7 March 1908). "The Oldest Custom in the World". Harper's Weekly. Vol. 52, no. 2672. p. 26.
  3. ^ Ashley Ross (31 March 2016). "No Kidding: We Have No Idea How April Fools' Day Started". Time. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  4. ^ The Canterbury Tales, "The Nun's Priest's Tale" - "Chaucer in the Twenty-First Century", University of Maine at Machias, 21 September 2007
  5. ^ a b "April Fool's Day 2021: how Chaucer, calendar confusion and Hilaria led to jokes and fake news". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 11 January 2022. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  6. ^ Travis, Peter W. (1997). "Chaucer's Chronographiae, the Confounded Reader, and Fourteenth-Century Measurements of Time". In Poster, Carol; Utz, Richard J. (eds.). Constructions of Time in the Late Middle Ages. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. pp. 16–17. ISBN 0-8101-1541-7.
  7. ^ a b c d e Boese, Alex (2008). "The Origin of April Fool's Day". Museum of Hoaxes.
  8. ^ Eloy d'Amerval, Le Livre de la Deablerie, Librairie Droz, p. 70. (1991). "De maint homme et de mainte fame, poisson d'Apvril vien tost a moy."
  9. ^ Groves, Marsha, Manners and Customs in the Middle Ages, p. 27 (2005).
  10. ^ a b "April Fools' Day". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  11. ^ Santino, Jack (1972). All around the year: holidays and celebrations in American life. University of Illinois Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-252-06516-3.
  12. ^ "April Fools' Day". History.com. 30 March 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Opie, Iona & Peter (1960). The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Oxford University Press. pp. 245–46. ISBN 0-940322-69-2.
  14. ^ Office, Great Britain: Home (2017). Life in the United Kingdom: a guide for new residents (2014 ed.). Stationery Office. ISBN 9780113413409.
  15. ^ a b Archie Bland (1 April 2009). "The Big Question: How did the April Fool's Day tradition begin, and what are the best tricks?". The Independent. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  16. ^ Haggerty, Bridget. "April Fool's Day". Irish Culture and Customs. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  17. ^ "Origin of April Fools' Day". The Express Tribune. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  18. ^ "April Fool's Day: 8 Interesting Things And Hoaxes You Didn't Know". International Business Times. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  19. ^ Sinelnikova, Alexandra (1 April 2019). "Humorina time". Odessitclub.
  20. ^ "Main festival in Odessa". 2019.
  21. ^ "Odessa celebrates Humorine. Picture story". 1 April 2019.
  22. ^ Adam, Soclof (31 March 2011). "From the JTA Archive: April Fools' Day lessons for Jewish pranksters". Jewish Telegraph Agency. JTA. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  23. ^ "Swiss Spaghetti Harvest". Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  24. ^ Moran, Rob (4 April 2014). "NPR's Brilliant April Fools' Day Prank Was Sadly Lost On Much Of The Internet". Retrieved 6 April 2014.
  25. ^ a b "Avui és el Dia d'Enganyar a Menorca" [Today is Fooling Day on Minorca] (in Catalan). Vilaweb. 1 April 2003. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  26. ^ "pinch and a punch for the first of the month - Wiktionary". en.wiktionary.org. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  27. ^ Willingham, AJ (July 2019). "Rabbit rabbit! Why people say this good-luck phrase at the beginning of the month". CNN. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  28. ^ a b Doll, Jen (1 April 2013). "Is April Fools' Day the Worst Holiday? – Yahoo News". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  29. ^ "Is this the best April Fool's ever?". BBC News. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  30. ^ "Why April Fools' Day is Good For Your Health – Health News and Views". News.Health.com. 1 April 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  31. ^ "April Fools: the best online pranks | SBS News". Sbs.com.au. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  32. ^ "April Fool's Day: A Global Practice". aljazirahnews. 1 April 2019. Retrieved 8 April 2019.
  33. ^ Harry McCracken (1 April 2013). "Google's Greatest April Fools' Hoax Ever (Hint: It Wasn't a Hoax)". Time. Archived from the original on 1 April 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  34. ^ Lisa Baertlein (1 April 2004). "Google: 'Gmail' no joke, but lunar jobs are". Reuters. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  35. ^ Woods, Michael (2 April 2013). "Brazeau tweets his resignation on April Fool's Day, causing confusion – National". Globalnews.ca. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  36. ^ Hasham, Nicole (3 April 2013). "ASIC to look into prank Metgasco email from schoolgirl Kudra Falla-Ricketts". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  37. ^ "Justin Bieber's Believe album hijacked by DJ Paz". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  38. ^ "Phuket News: Police warn of prison terms for April Fool's stories". The Phuket News. 1 April 2021. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  39. ^ Horton, Alex. "When Gmail Was First Announced, People Thought It Was an April Fools' Joke". ScienceAlert. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
  40. ^ "Powerpuff Girls Z Debut".
  41. ^ Gould, Andrew. "Isaiah Thomas Laughs at Doubters on April Fools' Day". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 8 November 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]