April Fools’ Day, a whimsical celebration marking the first day of April, is thought to have originated as a result of France’s transition from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar in 1563. This decreed that the New Year would no longer be celebrated from March 25th to April 1st, but rather on January 1st. Easter’s reliance on the lunar cycle meant that it was a moveable date, and those who still celebrated the New Year at that time were mockingly dubbed the “April Fools”. 


Across the world, April Fools’ Day is celebrated with an array of practical jokes and hoaxes, resulting in someone playing the fool. In France, for example, the fool is known as the “Poisson d’avril” (April Fish), suggesting one that is easily caught or tricked. It is tradition to pin a paper fish to an unsuspecting friend’s back. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the festivities have traditionally begun with the “hunting the gowk”, where the “gowk” is sent on fictitious errands, often delivering a sealed message asking for assistance. The following day, signs reading “Kick me” are pinned on the back of the “gowk”. 


The first British record traces back to John Aubrey’s 1686 publication where he labelled the occasion as “Fooles holy day”. In April 1698, individuals were fooled into going to the tower of London to see the "washing of the lions" (which didn’t exist). Many countries whose traditions derived from the UK, along with the UK itself, adhere to the custom ceasing at noon. Any individual who plays a prank after noon is considered the “April fool” themselves. 


It has become customary for companies and brands to participate in April Fools’ Day by pranking the public. Whilst some perceive this as harmless amusement, many others have raised concerns that the hoaxes can be controversial and sometimes harmful. A notorious example of this is the “Spaghetti Tree Hoax” orchestrated by the BBC in 1957. The hoax depicted a family in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from their “spaghetti tree”. Given spaghetti was relatively unfamiliar in the UK at the time, many people were unaware that it was made of wheat flour and water. The broadcast aired to approximately 8 million. Viewers, prompting hundreds of inquiries the next day questioning the legitimacy of the story or seeking advice on spaghetti cultivation!


Next year, there are plans to move April Fools’ Day to April 2nd because of a clash between a Blue Supermoon and National Sourdough Bread Day on April 1st. (Only kidding- Enjoy the fun and don’t be an April fish!).