History of April Fools’ Day

APRIL FOOLS’ DAY

April Fools’ Day, or All Fools’ Day, is the name given to the custom of playing practical jokes on friends on that day, or sending them on fools errands. The origin of this custom has been much disputed; it is in some way a relic of those once universal festivities held at the vernal equinox, which, beginning on the old New Year’s Day celebrations of March 25, ended on April 1.

Another view is that it is a farcical commemoration of Jesus’ trials during Passion Week in Jerusalem when he was sent from Annas‘ House to Caiaphas‘ Palace to Pontius Pilate‘s Praetorium to Herod‘s Hasmonean Palace and back to Pilate again… which culminated in his crucifixion on Good Friday, which may have been April 1.

The observance in the UK of April 1 goes back to ancient times, though it did not appear as a common custom until the early 1700s. In Scotland the custom was known as “hunting the gowk,” i.e., the cuckoo, and April fools were “April gowks.”

The French would designate a person as poisson d’avril, or April fish, in association with a colorful (but unverifiable) account of calendar reform. The story goes that in 1564 Charles IX of France changed the beginning of the year from the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st — to January 1st. Reputedly, those who refused to make the change would have pranksters surreptitiously affix a paper fish to the laggards’ backs.

In the US individuals and employees would concoct elaborate hoaxes and practical jokes on April Fools’ Day. At the old Sun Microsystems in Silicon Valley, for example, the size and complexity of these hoaxes were legendary in the 1980s and ’90s, with local television and radio media showing up to capture the event.

worldbackupdayNot surprisingly, due to high-tech pranks, some backup companies have sponsored a recent geek holiday called World Backup Day the day before on March 31 hoping to help people from becoming April Fools.

How do you celebrate April Fools’ Day?

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood hysterian
www.billpetro.com

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3 comments… add one
  • I love knowledge and always interested in reasons behind most things. As a 60yrs old Pastor I take keen interest in Christian historical facts, so that I can dish out verifiable facts. Thank God I stumble over your site this day.

    Reply
  • Glad to find your blog, after searching for material about how April Fools used to be celebrated at Sun. I always enjoyed your messages about occasions throughout the year, and am glad to discover you’re continuing that here.

    Reply
    • James,

      While I cannot say I participated in any of them, I witnessed several up close and personal. Putting a car in the pond, putting a pond in a car, putting a VW in Eric Schmidt’s office, in 1988 just down the hall from my office — putting a golf tee/hole/water trap/ball washer in Scott’s office with a cart outside. Putting an arrow through Scotts’ office: all the wood behind one arrowhead. Wayne Rosing’s office moved into a tank at San Francisco’s Steinhart Aquarium. It wasn’t SPARC it was SHARK. Then there was the non-April Fools’ Water Fight between SunSoft and Sun Labs that showed up in the Sun 10 Yearbook.

      Those were the days.

      Here’s a more complete list.

      -Bill

      Reply

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