In the West we take this day for granted as the day we trick each other, and pull pranks on one-another. Some pranks are harmless, and some are cruel. But why the hell do we do this to each other?
Some people believe that April Fools was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, a story of the pilgrimage people in Britain would take to Canterbury, a town of religious importance. In one particular chapter on a naughty nun was the account of one pilgrim being tricked by a fox on the “32nd March”, or 1st April.
One account from France argues that April Fools originates from poisson d’avril, the fish of April.
Some even argue that the April Fools celebrations exist now in place of the old New Year’s celebrations held in Europe. In the Middle Ages, the people in Europe would celebrate New Year around March-April time, but as Christianity gained popularity and influence in the 1500s the New Year celebration changed to the 1st January. Not wanting to simply abandon tradition, the story goes that the people simply changed the name of their festivities in April, and gained an extra holiday.
In the Netherlands the story of April Fools is linked to the war at Brielle in 1572, where a Spanish duke was defeated, though no actual celebrations or festivities were associated with the victory.
And the last, and strangest, origins story of April Fools that I have seen states that April Fools goes way, way back, to the Great Flood and Noah’s Ark. Though, the likelihood of that is pretty slim.
So, whether you believe the Brits, or the French, or anyone else, in the end it doesn’t really matter, does it? Just go out there, have some fun, and try not to hurt anyone. It’s a day for fun, not for funerals.