April Fools’ Day (sometimes referred to as All Fools’ Day) is observed all around the world. While most countries celebrate it on the first of April, there are some countries that celebrate it on different dates. Though historical evidence is ambiguous, most believe that when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in the late 1500s, the New Year was moved from April 1 to January 1. Those who kept to the old tradition and the old date were termed as fools, hence the association. Read on to find out how the day of pranks and jokes is celebrated across the globe.
In France, the holiday is also known as Poisson d’Avril, which translates to April Fish, and is also celebrated in Italy as Pesce d’Aprile. Historically, schoolchildren will stick an image of a fish on the back of an unsuspecting victim and wait for the transgression to be discovered. So if you do get stuck in a fishy situation, you can always learn from the French and Italian!
The people of Scotland celebrate making a fool out of their comrades so much that they’ve extended the holiday into the second day. April 1 was traditionally Hunt the Gowk day, although the name is fading out. Gowk means cuckoo, and sending a mate on a fool’s quest is the name of the game: One should ask someone to deliver a sealed message asking for help, the contents of which instruct the recipient to pass it along and continue the chain. The second day is known as Taily Day, which seems to have spawned the infamous “Kick Me” sign, and numerous posterior jokes. Better watch your back if you’re traveling to Scotland this holiday!
The 13th day of the Persian New Year is called Sizdah Bedar and usually falls on April 1 or April 2. Pranks have reportedly been played on this holiday since 536 BC, making it perhaps the oldest known joke day. It’s customary to spend the afternoon outside, celebrating the new season and indulging in food, laughter, games, and good-natured jokes. After a picnic, you throw away green vegetables, known as sabzeh, which represent any potential illnesses or bad luck for the coming year.
In Spain, the day of jokes and prank is celebrated towards the end of the year on December 28 as Holy Innocents’ Day or Childermas. The celebrations are also spread across Latin America. Though it technically is a Christian feast day, the pranking tradition that it’s now known for is strictly a cultural invention. Victims are instructed not to be upset because the jokesters are considered to be innocent.
The Sunday and Monday, prior to Lent is when the Portuguese celebrate April Fools’, and they have embraced one prank as their own: throwing flour on someone. Some could say it is better than having a fish stuck behind you.
India’s Holi festival is celebrated on March 31st and is a day to play jokes, toss colored dust and wear face and body paint to inaugurate spring. While it is not really a day to celebrate jokes or pranks, the Indian culture embraces happiness in various forms of which jokes and pranks carried out in good spirit is a part of it.
The Danish and the Swedish have a day each in two different months to let themselves loose and have some fun. May 1 is Maj-kat (May cat), a joke day, although bother Denmark and Sweden also celebrate April 1 as April Fools’ Day. The Scandinavians definitely know how to bid adieu to a long gloomy winter and welcome brighter spring in good spirits.
April Fools’ Day in Brazil is known as o dia das mentiras, literally, the day of lies or dia dos bobos, a day of fools. It is a day for pranks that are playful and spirited. April 1st became popular in Brazil after a satirical publication called A Mentira, dedicated to stories about the “ephemeral life”, wrote its first spoof news headline on April 1st, 1828, announcing the death of Don Pedro, Emperor of Brazil. The periodical lasted for quite a few years, but eventually, it ran into financial difficulties. Fittingly, on its last number dated September 14th, 1894, A Mentira communicated to all its creditors where they could go to get the money they were owed. The only problem was that this too was a prank and the place at the published address did not exist!
Protos Aprilis, (protos = first + Aprilis = April) was absorbed into Greek culture very fast. The basic idea remains the same like everywhere else: on April 1st, everyone tells innocent lies in order to trick the “victim”. It is so widespread that one finds different customs in different parts of Greece. In some parts, it is considered good luck for the prank to be successful. The person who manages to trick another is going to have a fortunate year, as opposed to the person who gets fooled. In Naxos, an island in the Cyclades, they still take part in pranks, only on March 1st.
The tradition in Germany is exactly the same as it is in the US, though with a slightly bigger overall importance. On April Fools’ Day, you play a prank (called an “Aprilscherz“) on family members, co-workers and friends-even solid lies are customarily excused on that day. Newspapers, TV and radio stations typically have at least one story which is generally harmless, but “out of this world” and completely made up. To reveal the joke, Germans say April, April: literally April, April. The Germans definitely take their pranks seriously! Here’s hoping your pranks are successful and should you be a victim of one, plan ahead for the next year!