The Origins of April Fools Day

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The April Fool indicates a tradition followed in different countries of the world, which consists of making jokes on 1 April. The jokes can be of various nature, even very sophisticated and have substantially the purpose of making good-natured fun with the victims of such jokes. The tradition has characteristics similar to those of some public holidays such as Hilaria of ancient Rome, celebrated on March 25 and Holi, both occurrences related to spring equinox.

The special feature of this festive day was that it was permitted to give life to any form of joke or game, with a preference for masking. Each one was allowed to assume the identity and appearance of the other, even belonging to high public offices or judges. The celebrations of Hilaria represented on the last day of the festivities dedicated to Cybele, the Sanguem.

Once, in various parts of the world and for many centuries, the beginning of the new year was celebrated between the spring equinox and 1 April, with a week of celebrations and exchange of gifts. In the Middle Ages there was a wide variety of choices given as the initial time of the year also changed from city to city.

The origins of this festival, which has been handed down for centuries in many countries of the world, are uncertain, but it could be the fish symbol of esoteric as making fun of the human condition. Another hypothesis features the first spring peaches of the past.

At this point you're probably wondering from where enter the fish then? Everything stems from a deception against the fishermen, in April. This was one of the months in which it was forbidden to fish, to encourage natural reproduction of freshwater fish. The fishermen taunted each other with the phrase: Here are the April fish! It is said that one of the oldest jokes known dating back to the thirteenth century. Often it happened that fishermen, finding fish on the sea bottom in early April, returned to harbor empty-handed and therefore were subject of laughter and mockery by the villagers.

Another hypothesis about the origins of April Fools refers to Ancient Egypt, where Queen Cleopatra challenged her lover Marco Antonio in a fishing contest. As he tried to cheat to win, Cleopatra placed the bait fish a mock crocodile skin.

Another hypothesis, fairly widespread, it instead goes back to the pagan rite, linked to the ancient Julian calendar, when the first April marked the beginning of the spring solstice. After the winter, the arrival of the spring season marked the renewal of the earth and life. On this occasion, between March 25 and April 1, people used to propitiate the gods by offering gifts and making sacrifices in their honor. The party was also an opportunity to express themselves in complete freedom with jokes, pranks and antics.

As a result, according to a first version of the origin of this custom, in France people started the tradition of delivering empty gift packs at the 1st of April. The name that was given to the strange custom was poisson d'Avril, precisely April Fool. However, that of April Fool, it is a practice so widespread in the world that anthropologists have necessarily thought of even more ancient origins, consequently able to explain why it is present in so many different cultures and so geographically stretched.

Some scholars have also suggested as the origin of April Fool in the classical age, and, in particular, have glimpsed some possible commonalities with the current practice both in the myth of Persephone who after being abducted by Pluto searched in vain for his mother deceived by a nymph, and in the pagan festival of veneralia which was held on 1 April with some possible commonalities with the current practice. Both assumptions, however, confirm the pagan and clownish origin of the festival, which continues today, albeit with different nuances, to stay alive in much of the world.

After the advent of Christianity in the Roman Empire, festivals of this type were replaced by other religious holidays in order to wipe out forever the pagan customs and traditions. Even newspapers and television series consider April 1st as a day when it is lawful to spread hoaxes. Every year on this day, there are some real news that turn out to be false.

With the advent of new media the sense of humor and jokes have evolved. Famous are now those of the BBC who makes fun of viewers with false news, as when in 1965 it announced the birth of a new television technology that would allow it to transmit odors, as well as images and sounds. Today, the jokes for April 1 is mainly done on the web and Google is the king, distinguishing itself in the years to really unique and original jokes.

So we just have to wait, hoping not to become unfortunate victims of vicious pranks, but in any case taking a joke is always the best defense, and why not as the tone of the party have always been undoubtedly happy and playful, as it induces to do and to think about spring, and as such continues to remain alive in much of the world.

In Spanish America it is customary to make jokes of all kinds on this date. The media make jokes or misrepresent their content in such a way that the information seems real. It is a freedom given by the media agents to unleash their sense of humor, opportunity that they only have once a year. It is a tradition that newspapers publish whole pages of comic news, with the warning that it is the day of the innocent, ranging from those that are an obvious mockery to any recent event, to those that seem serious and deceive the reader unawares. The day of the innocents is lived throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

In some areas of America it is important not to lend any property, either object or money, as the borrower is free to appropriate the goods. This type of celebration has become less in recent years and it is no longer usual for people to borrow in the hope that the lender will not remember the date and can be mocked by the very popular phrase.

In countries that celebrate the tradition of April 1, this can take many facets depending on the local culture. In Scotland the anniversary is known as Gowkie Day and it seems that here was born the popular joke that is to kick on the victim's back.

In English-speaking countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, however, the anniversary of the April 1 is called April fool's day, where the term fool recalls goblin of medieval courts, thus underlining the playful connotation of the party. Finally, in Germany is called Aprilscherz and more simply April Joke. Today in Germany are made jokes of any kind. Even the newspapers enjoy in making fun of readers by publishing improbable news, of course, denied the next day.

In France, the joke most popular today among French children is to attack behind the back of their friends with a sign shaped like a fish. In Scotland, the April Fool lasts two days. During the second day, called Taily Day or day of the buttocks, the Scots enjoy attacking behind the Gawk, the fool, a sign bearing the inscription Kick me. We can well imagine the hilarity that in this day breaks in Scotland!

But, as often happens with traditions handed down, not everyone knows the reason for the birth of this day.