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The Antelope

From Ancient Rome to today: the history of April Fools’

CASSIE BROWN / ANTELOPE STAFF In France, people tape a picture of a fish on their friend’s back as an April Fool’s tradition.

For many years, the first of April has been the day where many pranksters around the world pull practical jokes or pranks on other people.

Many countries around the world participate every year, and many companies also take advantage of the day to put out fake ads that bring attention to their brand.

The origins of April Fools’ are uncertain, but there are many theories on where this odd holiday came from.  

Historians cannot say for sure where this day comes from but a small group of them point to the ancient Roman holiday of “Hilaria”. The Romans used this day to celebrate the god “Cybele” by holding a day full of games and partying. The day included a masquerade ball where attendants could dress up as anyone — even as nobility.

However, the similarities between these two days are most often considered a coincidence. Other historians claim the first recorded “April Fools’ Day” happened in the Middle Ages during the 14th century although the official day is disputed.  

Other historians claim that the holiday began in 1582 in France during the reformation of the calendar. Before adopting the Gregorian calendar, the French used to celebrate the New Year over the course of eight days with April 1 as the last day.

When the calendar system was changed, the lack of mass communication techniques made the change to January 1 take a few years to be implemented. 

The people who had not officially changed their calendar kept celebrating the New Year on April 1 resulting in lighthearted harassment from those who made the official calendar change.

This explanation is also considered just a theory because the English already had a set April Fools’ Day, but they did not make the official calendar change until 1752.

The origins of the holiday may still be unknown, but the holiday has evolved immensely in recent years, countries like the U.K. and France have adopted their own traditions.

For example, in modern-day France, people try and tape a picture of a fish to other people’s backs without them noticing. In the U.K., people can also pull jokes until noon, after which people are derided as an April Fool.

However it’s celebrated, the first of April has taken a permanent seat in the list of public holidays and will continue to be celebrated around the world for years to come.

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