The 1st of April or April Fools’ Day is traditionally the day of fools and foolery, a day when anybody can make joke of anything. writes that on this day, it might not be advisable to believe everything you hear or read in the media.

The victims of the jokes and the jokes themselves are called April Fools. People playing jokes laugh and shout out: ‘April fool!’ The origin of the tradition is not clear. According to the most common explanation, April Fools’ Day originates from medieval France, where the year started on the 1st of April and people surprised each other with gifts to celebrate the New Year. In 1564, King Charles IX transferred the start of the New Year to the 1st of January but the ordainment was only accepted slowly so many people still sent gifts on the 1st of April. Due to the double cost these gifts slowly turned into funny fingle-fangles and surprises: they bestrode the false New Year with renege.

Kijev, 2009. április 1. Bohócnak beöltözött emberek bolondoznak az utcán Kijev belvárosában 2009. április 1-jén, mely az ukránoknál a nevetés napja. (MTI/EPA/SERGEY DOLZHENKO)
1st of April, 2009. People dressed as clowns are having fun on the streets of Kiev.

Others think of this day as the continuation of the ancient Saturnalias. At the celebrations of unrestrained orgy lords and servants changed roles for a day. Some people believe that the tradition does come from ancient Rome; however, it was inspired by the ravishment of Sabin women, as Romulus invited Sabin people to the Neptune celebration in April who were later tricked and their wives and daughters got ravished.

According to another explanation, the tradition originates from the Easter passion-plays. In the naïve folk mysteries Christ is sent from Kajafás to Pilate, then to Herod, and back to Pilate during his litigation. So the habit of sending well-meant people to different places with false issues during Easter originates from the story mentioned afore. The habit lived long in Scotland: the victim was sent to a faraway place with a sealed letter which contained a paper saying “”Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile.” Of course, the recipient gave the letter back and sent the poor person on another round unless the person realised that he is ‘fooled’. Harmless jokes were also played on children: they were sent for dove milk, mosquito fat and cock tooth.

According to, April Fools’ jokes were produced in the British newspapers almost systematically. A very memorable joke was played in 1798, when advertisements in almost all newspapers said that on the 1st of April there’s going to be a procession never seen before to Westminster Abbey, including aged men and women, widows and children, married and divorced men and women of all classes. At first, people didn’t realise that the list included everyone. The crowd gathered and waited patiently until someone shouted ‘April Fools’ so people went home cheerfully.

Budapest, 2011. április 1. Bohócdoktorok integetnek a budapesti Gödör Klub elõtt. A 15 éves Piros Orr Bohócdoktorok Alapítvány bolondos kerékpáros felvonulást tartott az Erzsébet tér és a Hõsök tere között. MTI Fotó: Földi Imre
1st of April, 2011. Clown doctors are waving to the camera after their bicycle procession in Budapest

It can be hard to differentiate between what is real and what is a joke on this day so it can happen that certain jokes stampede and real facts are joked around with. When an earthquake was followed by a tsunami that took toll on 150 victims on the 1st of April, 1946 in Alaska and Hawaii, the reason behind the big number of victims was that some people thought that it was only a false alarm. According to another weird story, in the 17th century, the imprisoned (by the French) price of Lothringia tried to escape from the prison in disguise on the 1st of April. The servant-girl, who was supposed to look after him, recognised the prince and wanted to report the escape but everybody reassured her that it was April Fools’ Day. When it turned out that the prince actually escaped, it was already too late…

Photos: MTI

Copy editor: bm


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