What happens on April Fool's Day?
April Fool's is a light-hearted day of national japery celebrated every year on April 1st. Millions of people in homes and offices up and down the land spend the morning of April 1 playing practical jokes on each other in the hope of a quick laugh (and to avoid doing work).
What quick April Fool's pranks can I play?
- Change the language on your colleague’s computer
- Hard boil all the eggs in the carton and place them back in the fridge
- Fill a hair dryer with talcum powder
- Try the old plastic film on the toilet seat trick
- Attach an air horn under your boss’s seat
- Plant cress seeds in your colleague’s computer… and watch them grow
- Hide a dead fish behind the radiator
- Cover a colleague's desk in sticky notes
Famous April Fool's Day pranks
Where did April Fool's Day originate?
The origins of the day are uncertain. Most people think it stems from Pope Gregory XIII.
In 1582, he wanted his new Gregorian calendar to replace the old Julian Calendar. This called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated on January 1 instead of the end of March.
But some people apparently didn't get the memo and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1. These poor folk were made fun of and were sent on ‘fools errands’ for a laugh.
However, others think April Fool's Day stems from the age when people used to hold spring festivals marking the end of winter with 'mayhem and misrule', according to the Museum of Hoaxes.
The Ancient Roman festival of Hilaria celebrated the resurrection of the god Attis and involved dressing in disguise.
Many other cultures have held renewal festivals in Europe around April 1 and there are refereces to these dating back to the 1500s.
What is clear though is that by the 1700s, the day of hilarity was well entrenched in Britain, and now April 1 is officially the most amusing day of the year.
April Fool's around the world
April Fool's Day is celebrated in many countries all over the world, including Poland, Scotland and even Iran.
The French call the day Poisson d’Avril, or ‘April Fish’. French children will often tape a picture of a fish on to the back of their friends and wait for them to realise. This is also the case in Italy.
In Scotland, April Fool's Day used to be called Huntigowk Day – gowk being Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person.
Traditionally people were sent on a foolish errand to deliver a sealed message reading ‘Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile’.
In Iran pranks have been played on April 1 since 536 BC. The day is the 13th day of the Persian New Year, and is called Sizdah Bedar. Families and friends will mark the new season by spending the afternoon outside with food, games and jokes.
India’s Holi festival is celebrated on March 31. On this day people play jokes, throw coloured dust and wear face and body paint to officially welcome spring.
Meanwhile, in Portugal people throw flour over each other.
Danes, Finns, Icelanders, Norwegians and Swedes also celebrate April Fool's Day, heralding warmer weather after the long winter.
April Fool's Day on stage and screen
Although no reference is made to April Fool's Day in any of Shakespeare's works, many of his plays feature a fool, clown or jester character.
Puck and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Fool in King Lear and Feste in Twelfth Night are perhaps the most notable examples.
The fool was usually a clever peasant or commoner who used his wits to outdo people of higher social standing. The character often appears after dramatic or horrific scenes, bringing a bit of light or comic relief to the stage. The fool was also used to make complex ideas easier for the audience to understand.
The 1986 horror film April Fool's Day featured a group of college students staying at a friend's remote island mansion. They begin to fall victim to an unseen murderer over the April Fool's day weekend. A remake of the film was made in 2008.
People born on April 1st
- 1578: William Harvey, English physician and academic (d. 1657)
- 1815: Otto von Bismarck, German lawyer and politician, 1st Chancellor of the German Empire (d. 1898)
- 1883: Lon Chaney, American actor, director, and screenwriter (d. 1930)
- 1920: Toshiro Mifune, Chinese-Japanese actor and producer (d. 1997)
- 1929: Milan Kundera, Czech-French author, poet, and playwright
- 1932: Debbie Reynolds, American actress, singer, and dancer
- 1939: Rudolph Isley, American singer-songwriter (The Isley Brothers)
- 1939: Ali MacGraw, American actress
- 1942: Annie Nightingale, English radio host
- 1946: Ronnie Lane, English bass player, songwriter, and producer (Small Faces and The Faces) (d. 1997)
- 1946: Arrigo Sacchi, Italian footballer, coach, and manager
- 1948: Jimmy Cliff, Jamaican singer and actor
- 1949: Gil Scott-Heron, American singer-songwriter and author (d. 2011)
- 1953: Barry Sonnenfeld, American director and producer
- 1957: David Gower, English cricketer and sportscaster
- 1961: Susan Boyle, Scottish singer
- 1962: Phillip Schofield, English television host
- 1966: Chris Evans, English radio and television host
- 1969: Dean Windass, English footballer and manager
- 1971: Method Man, American rapper, producer, and actor (Wu-Tang Clan)
- 1976: Clarence Seedorf, Dutch-Brazilian footballer and manager
- 1980: Bijou Phillips, American actress
- 1985: Beth Tweddle, English gymnast
- 1986: Kid Ink, American rapper
- 1994: Ella Eyre, English singer-songwriter