I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of people here in the UK will know the first day of April as April Fools Day, and that is also the case for a lot of Europe, the United States, and various other countries around the world. But is it only jokes and pranks that take place on the 1st April? What other days or traditions are observed on that date around the world?
The tradition of April Fools Day in the UK hasn’t got a definitive origin, but most popular amongst historians is the changing of the calendar in the mid-16th century, initially by the French. At the time New Year was celebrated with a week-long festival that ended on 1st April, but in France they made the switch going forward to acknowledge 1st January as New Year’s Day. News didn’t spread quite so quickly in those days, and anyone who hadn’t heard about the change and still celebrated on 1st April were considered to be foolish.
In France they actually call it poisson d'avril or ‘April Fish’, with one of the favourite traditional pranks being to pin a paper fish on the back of some poor, unsuspecting fool. The idea of the fish most likely calls back to the fact that Lent is also around the same time. People observing Lent aren’t supposed to eat meat but they can still eat fish, and so fake fish and other fish related japes were probably the height of hilarity at the time.
April Fool’s Day in England is traditionally only celebrated before noon on 1st April, any pranks after that are rightfully frowned upon, but in Scotland they traditionally celebrated it for two days. April 1st would be when they ‘Hunt the Gowk’, where pranks were played on the ‘gowk’ (or fool), such as sending them to deliver a pointless sealed message to someone who then sends them off with another message to deliver to someone else, and so on. Following that was Tallie Day on 2nd April, on which the pranks were more aimed specifically at your behind! Can you pin a tail on someone without them noticing, or maybe the now classic ‘kick me’ sign perhaps?
In the Indian State of Odisha, the 1st April is Odisha Day, a holiday celebrating the state’s formation dating back to 1st April 1936. This annual event is celebrated with fireworks competitions, as well as different cultural programmes and events held across the state.
April 1st is actually National Tree Planting Day in Tanzania, also known as Arbor Day in other countries and celebrated at different times of the year depending on when is the ideal time to be planting trees. In Tanzania the Forest Services Agency holds educational workshops in schools to teach children about the benefits of planting trees, as well as raising awareness of the dangers of deforestation.
In Cyprus, 1st April is either known as National Day or Greek Cypriot National Day, depending on who you ask. On 1st April 1955 an organisation known as EOKA (National Organisation of the Cypriot Struggle) was established to fight for independence from Britain and to unite with Greece. Each year this is marked with a public holiday on which a lot of shops close and churches hold a special service.
There’s even such a thing as the International Edible Book Festival which is an annual event held on or around 1st April. Celebrated since the year 2000 in various parts of the world, people are invited to create ‘edible books’ that are displayed, photographed and then eaten.
I realise that last one sounds like an April Fools joke I might be playing on you, but it honestly is a real thing!
Do you have any April Fools traditions or memories that remind you of your loved ones? Let us know in the comments below.