It is that time of the year again when one can prank people with zero guilt. The celebration of April fools day is known to have originated in Europe but in no way has its observance been limited to the Western world. In the highly connected globalised world order that we live in, the dedication of April 1 as a day for fools, has been a rather contagious (and even contentious) affair.
While historians still remain unsure about the precise roots of April fools day, the most popular explanation of its beginnings is considered to lay in the change of calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian one. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ruled the new calendar to start from January 1, instead of the hitherto celebration of new year in the end of March. This change in the annual calendar was first brought into practice by France. However, a large number of people all across Europe continued with the Julian calendar. As a result, those who adopted the new calendar started referring to the ones who refused to change as ‘fools’, thereby marking the beginning of a tradition that we would go on to observe in the coming centuries.
However, this popular explanation for April fools day does not add up to the fact that not every country in Europe switched to the Gregorian calendar at the same time. For instance, England did not adopt the new calendar until 1752. However, the concept of April fools was well known there by then.
One other explanation for the origin of this tradition is that of the spring time custom of light hearted merriment that is believed to have been observed across several parts of the world for centuries. For instance, in ancient Rome a festival called ‘Hilaria’ was celebrated on the last week of March, as the day on which God Attis was resurrected. Similarly in India Holi is celebrated during the same time of the year as an occasion for playful jubilation by spraying colours on each other. Perhaps we can find the origins of April fools day in the overall atmosphere of merrymaking that has been observed world over for centuries during the time of the year when winter gives way to spring.