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Telling someone they have a spot on their shirt when there isn't one, putting a whoopee cushion under their seat, or putting a "kick me" sign on their back—there are countless practical jokes and pranks that can be played on people. On April Fools' Day, these pranks are in full force, and many a person is sent on a fool's errand.

It isn't exactly known how the day started. One prominent theory says that it started in France in 1564, after New Year's Day was changed to January 1 that year. Those who wanted to continue celebrating the old new year around Easter became known as "April fools," and tricks and jokes were commonly played on them. Although France started beginning their years on January 1 in 1564, they didn't adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1582, and some sources claim this may have been the year that April Fools' Day started. Either way, an early prank in France was to put a paper fish, known as a poisson d’avril, meaning "April fish," on someone's back. It represented an easily caught fish, which was a symbol for someone who is gullible. The tradition still takes place today.

Another theory on the day is that its start may be tied to the Vernal Equinox—the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This may have something to do with people commonly being fooled by unpredictable weather around this time of year. The day also may be connected to Hilaria, an ancient Roman festival. During the eighteenth century, the holiday became prominent throughout Britain, and in Scotland, it became a two-day festival. The festival began with "hunting the gowk"—"gowk" being the name for a cuckoo bird, the symbol for a fool. On the day, people were sent out on fake errands. On the second day, known as Tailie Day, pranks were played on people's backsides. For example, "kick me" signs were often placed on them. There have continued to be some differences in how April Fools' Day is celebrated by different countries, but no matter where you go, someone is bound to be getting a trick played on them, or being made to look like a fool.

How to Observe

Celebrate the day by playing April Fools' jokes on others and by being aware of what's happening around you so people don't play jokes on you! There are many April Fools' Day joke ideas you could use if you can't think of any good ideas yourself. If you don't feel like playing jokes on people today, you could read about pranks that people have played over a long period of time, or read a book about spoofs the media has done on the day.

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