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Friday, 1 April 2011

April Fools' Day


April Fools' Day is celebrated in the western world on the 1st of April of every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools' Day, April 1st is not a legal holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day which tolerates practical jokes and general foolishness. The day is marked by good humoured or funny jokes, hoaxes and other practical pranks on friends, family members, teachers, neighbours...

Unlike most of the other nonfoolish holidays, the history of April Fool's Day is not totally clear. The closest point in time that can be identified as the beginning of this tradition was in 1582, in France. Prior to that year, the new year was celebrated for eight days, beginning on March 25th. The celebration culminated on April 1st. With the reform of the calendar under Charles IX, the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year's Day was moved to January 1st. Some of Charles' subjects refused to adopt the new calendar, and continued to observe the new year around April 1st. Naturally, these individuals were the butt of many jokes and taunting, and earned the name "Poisson d'Avril" (April Fish) because at that time of year the sun was in the zodiac sign of Pisces, the fish. This harassment evolved, over time, into a tradition of prank-playing on the first day of April. The tradition eventually spread to England and Scotland in the eighteenth century. It was later introduced to the American colonies of both the English and French.

April Fool's Day thus developed into an international fun fest, so to speak, with different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of their friends and families. In Scotland, for example, April Fool's Day is actually celebrated for two days. The second day is devoted to pranks involving the posterior region of the body. It is called Taily Day.

Traditionally, in some countries such as New Zealand, the UK, Australia, and South Africa, the jokes only last until noon, and someone who plays a trick after noon is called an "April Fool". It is for this reason that newspapers in the U.K. that run a front page April fool only do so on the first (morning) edition. Elsewhere, such as in France, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S., the jokes last all day long.