Where Did April Fools' Day Come From?

There exist many conflicting theories on the origins of the holiday, although the most compelling dates back to Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

Many conflicting theories exist that try and pinpoint the origins of the holiday everyone in your office hates you for. Of all these theories, the most likely root of what we now know as April Fools' Day dates back to Pope Gregory XIII, who reigned — or if reign isn't the right word — who pope'd from 1572 to 1584. I'm sure you're familiar with the calendar hanging on your wall that starts in January, ends in December, and consists of seemingly arbitrary amounts of days per month. You can thank Pope Greg for that. His Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian Calendar in 1582.


One major change with the calendar switch was that New Year's Day moved from the end of March to the beginning of January. As Tech Times notes, those who didn't get the memo about the change of date and celebrated the old New Year's Day at the end of March were thus deemed, naturally, April fools. 

Other references to early spring silliness exist beyond the Gregorian theory. The Canterbury Times explains that Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1475) includes a story of a fox who plays tricks on March 32nd. The ancient Roman Hilaria festival, which as its name suggests, was a celebration of all things hilarious, was traditionally held in late March. The Middle Ages featured a similar event called the Feast of Fools. 

The likeliest answer to the question above — where did it all come from? — is that April Fools' Day is merely a modern riff on an ancient tradition. For thousands of years, the end of winter has been met with glee. Our current practice simply builds upon the custom. 

So tomorrow, when you return your coworker's stolen stapler in the middle of a Jell-o mold, be sure to think of the Ancient Romans and good ol' Pope Greg who helped make it all happen.

Read more at Canterbury Times and Tech Times.

Photo credit: Gang Liu / Shutterstock

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
Sponsored
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less

Why American history lives between the cracks

The stories we tell define history. So who gets the mic in America?

Videos
  • History is written by lions. But it's also recorded by lambs.
  • In order to understand American history, we need to look at the events of the past as more prismatic than the narrative given to us in high school textbooks.
  • Including different voices can paint a more full and vibrant portrait of America. Which is why more walks of American life can and should be storytellers.
Keep reading Show less

Jesus wasn't white: he was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew. Here's why that matters

There is no doubt that the historical Jesus, the man who was executed by the Roman State in the first century CE, was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew.

Hans Zatzka (Public Domain)/The Conversation, CC BY-ND
popular

I grew up in a Christian home, where a photo of Jesus hung on my bedroom wall. I still have it. It is schmaltzy and rather tacky in that 1970s kind of way, but as a little girl I loved it. In this picture, Jesus looks kind and gentle, he gazes down at me lovingly. He is also light-haired, blue-eyed, and very white.

Keep reading Show less

Orangutans exhibit awareness of the past

Orangutans join humans and bees in a very exclusive club

(Eugene Sim/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • Orangutan mothers wait to sound a danger alarm to avoid tipping off predators to their location
  • It took a couple of researchers crawling around the Sumatran jungle to discover the phenomenon
  • This ability may come from a common ancestor
Keep reading Show less