Skip to content

How do we celebrate April 1 all over the world?

April Fools time has arrived! A true tradition in France, the 1st of April has vague origins and is not limited to the borders of our dear Hexagon, the English-speaking world designates it by the name ofApril Fool’s Day.

Although now mainly perpetuated by children, the tradition of April 1st and its famous fish have been running in France for several centuries. By the 1960s, the phenomenon had grown to such an extent that the major French media lent themselves to the game to the point of carrying out wacky false reports as April Fools’ Day.

The pranks of April 1 are not the prerogative of France, since many other Western countries also celebrate it. Some nations practice it in exactly the same way, while others have adapted it to their own culture or even celebrate it on another date. Some would attribute to these different celebrations a common origin, while the origin of April 1st in France, although better defined, remains uncertain.

What is the origin of April 1st?

Many people consider that the general origin of the international “days of pranks” stems from Greek antiquity itself. Indeed, April 1 would be, in ancient Greece, a day dedicated to the spirit of laughter, Gelos. This would have been held 12 days after the vernal equinox, corresponding to the date of April 1st. Needless to point out that this supposed origin of April 1st is widely debated.

Regarding the appearance of this tradition in France, we retain a more plausible hypothesis, but closely linked to the use of the fish as a symbol of this day. In 1564, the first day of the year was celebrated on April 1st and the custom wanted then that we exchange gifts (or new year’s gifts) for the new year, the date of April 1st would therefore have remained but would have been marked of a very different meaning thereafter, that which we know today.

Why do we say “April Fool”?

In addition to the opening of the fishing season or the end of Lent, a more likely hypothesis is retained. The phrase “April Fool’s Day” would have been born in 1466 but would not have started to acquire its mischievous connotation until the end of the 17th century and did not fully embrace it until the 18th century. It would thus have gradually taken on the meaning that we know today, but other hypotheses circulate however.

A person hanging an April Fool's joke behind another person's back

The fish has been attributed successively, and through different eras such as ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, very specific meanings, until the first Christians who saw this animal as a sacred symbol associated with Christ. The symbol would have persisted with an increasingly altered meaning until it was considered a sign of deception.

April Fool’s Day, El dia de los santos, gowk-day… how do we celebrate April 1 around the world?

France does not have a monopoly on April 1st, nor on the pranks and other hoaxes that accompany it. L’Italythe Swiss and the Belgium follow the tradition in exactly the same way, with April Fools. On the side of the English-speaking countries, this day is also celebrated under the name ofApril Fool’s Day and in a similar way to what is done in France, except for a few details. At UK and in Ireland, hoaxes are allowed until noon on April 1st. Otherwise, we go from joker to turkey stuffing. A single exception in Scotland where this day, named gowk-day, spread over two whole days. Across the Atlantic, the Americans also take advantage of this day as much as they can to play tricks on their friends. Their Canadian neighbors are not left out, nor are the Quebecers who also follow the tradition of April Fool’s Day.

A woman pranking one of her colleagues

For the rest, it is Europe that April 1st is mostly celebrated, but not necessarily on the same date. Nearby countries likeGermany and the Netherlands name this day Aprilscherz. In the Portuguese-speaking countries that are the Portugal and the Brazil, the holiday is known as the dia da mentira, or the “day of lies”. The Portuguese replace April Fool’s Day with flour, so you better watch your back. Their Spanish neighbors don’t deprive themselves of such a day either… but celebrate it on December 28! They call it El dia de los innocent santos, or the day of the innocent saints. The Greeks, meanwhile, have different beliefs regarding that particular day. Playing successful pranks on their compatriots would bring good luck all year round, or even promote harvests. The 1st of April is also practiced in an elaborate way in Poland and Sweden.

Many countries around the world, however, do not celebrate April 1 and have no equivalent. However, it happens that Western culture influences the younger generations of certain countries such asIndia where children seem to be happy to set up pranks at all costs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.