ENGLISH CULTURE – APRIL FOOLS ‘DAY
ENGLISH CULTURE – CURIOSITIES AND TRADITIONS
Tomorrow, is April the 1st and in all countries in the world except in the Spanish-speaking ones “April Fools’ Day” or the also known “Fools Day”, is celebrated. It is a day marked by all kind of jokes and is an english tradition.
How did this tradition begin?
To explain it well, we must go back to the Middle Ages, particularly the mid-sixteenth century.
At that time, Christmas was celebrated during the last week of March, between the 25th of March and the 1st of April, taking place on April the 1st the New Year.
In 1563 the Council of Trent was held and in it, Pope Gregory XIII introduced a new calendar called the Gregorian, which coincides with the calendar that we have nowadays. With this calendar he wanted to correct mismatches produced by the previous calendar, the Julian.
The following year the French king Charles IX after discovering that throughout all his kingdom Christmas was celebrated at different times of the year (January the 1st or March the 25the), he decided to establish the Gregorian calendar and set, through Roussillon’s decree, that the New Year would be moved and officially held on January the 1st along his kingdom.
However, not all countries adopted this change immediately, as in the case of the United States, and they continued celebrating the New Year on March the 25th.
And here is the origin of the name: “April Fools’ Day”!
All of those who were slow to recognize the change of the day when the New Year was held or the ones that received the news so late and still celebrating it during the last week of March, started being the centre of ridicule and jokes and they began to be considered as “fools” as “silly people” because they haven´t change their calendar and they go backwards the rest of the world.
The best known joke of the period was to stick the wrapping fish paper into the back of the people and referring them as “poisson d’avril” (an expression that symbolizes a very gullible person literally a young and easy to catch fish).
And why the wrapping fish paper? Because it is related with the zodiac sign of April that is Pisces.
Other historians have different theories about “April Fools’ Day”. One of this theories refers to an ancient festival held in Rome called Hilaria, which included disguised people and the other theory sets that the name of “April Fools’ Day “ refers to the first day of Spring because Mother Nature deceived people with the changing and unpredictable climate.
Nowadays, people perform increasingly elaborate tricks for “April Fools’ Day”. Newspapers, radios, television and websites involved “tricking their audience.” Two of the most talked jokes were:
- The news given by the BBC in 1957 about Swiss farmers that were experiencing a record spaghetti harvest. They showed farmers picking noodles from trees.
- The campaign done by Burger King in 1988 about a “Left-handed burger.” Days after the joke, many customers continued asking for the burger.
And in Spain? How did it begin?
The Day of the Jokes in the Spanish-speaking countries is celebrated on December the 28th and is known as the day of the “Holy Innocents”. This festival began as a religious festival to commemorate the hundreds of innocent children murdered under the orders of King Herod for his fear of being dethroned on the 28th of December of the year 0, when Christ was born.
Over the years this tradition mixed with “April Fools’ Day”, when the calendar was changed, and New Year started being celebrated on January the 1st.
During “April Fools’ Day” everything was allowed and guilt could not fall on anyone.
A curiosity of this day in Latin American countries is that, apart from spending the typical jokes, other “fool” is that if you lend something (money or an object), you have no right to ask the recipient the of return the object because the recipient automatically becomes the owner of the object.
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