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April Fool's Day

How did it all Start?

Where does April Fool's Day come from?

We’ve all heard of April Fool’s Day and most of us have either had jokes played on us or have  played them on other people.  But where does it come from?

There are many different theories and it seems doubtful as to whether anyone really knows…. But here are just a couple:

The Calendar-Change Theory

The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool's Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.

In 1564 France reformed its calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1st.

That is quite a big thing to change!  (Imagine us doing that today!) Some people failed to keep up and instead they clung stubbornly to the old calendar system. This meant that they continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st.  These people were looked upon as fools and had jokes played on them. Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d'Avril, - ‘poisson’ meaning fish in French and ‘Avril’ meaning April. To this day April Fool’s Day is still referred to as Poisson d’Avril in France – and it is thought that this was where the tradition of prank playing was born.

Chocolate fish are often found in France around April Fool’s day and also for Easter which tends to occur around the same time.

However some have argued that the April Fool’s tradition goes back to an earlier time than the changing of the calendars. 

Some believe that a story told by early English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century  - is the first reference to pranks taking place on the first of April. The story tells the story of a fox who plays a prank on a rooster (who is almost eaten because of it).

The poet doesn't actually directly refer to April 1st, but in the poem, he says 32 days "syn March began", which people have said is "32 days since March began" - which would be April 1st.

But those who don't believe this theory say he was just using confusing words to make fun of people in the poem.

Whether of not this theory was true, British folklore links April Fool's Day to the town of Gotham, the legendary town of fools located in Nottinghamshire.

According to the legend, it was traditional in the 13th century for any road that the King placed his foot upon to become public property.

When the citizens of Gotham heard that King John planned to travel through their town, they refused him entry as they did not wish to lose their main road.

When the King heard this, he sent soldiers to the town. But when the soldiers arrived in Gotham, they found the town full of lunatics engaged in foolish activities such as drowning fish or attempting to cage birds in roofless fences. Their foolery was all an act, but the King fell for the ruse and declared the town very foolish - too foolish to warrant punishment. Ever since then, according to legend, April Fool's Day has commemorated their trickery.


The picture shows a 1630 woodcut, where a citizen of Gotham is shown
trying to trap a bird inside a roofless fence.


Whatever the truth is, April Fool’s Day has caused a lot of fun and laughter for a lot of people – and maybe some embarrassment too!

We love this one - a few years ago The North Yorkshire Moors Railway said it had created a train carriage dedicated just to dogs, but of course it was just a joke!