April Fools’ Day, also called All Fools’ Day, is celebrated every April 1st in the United States. While it is not officially recognized as a holiday, many celebrate by pranking, or pulling practical jokes on, their colleagues or by organizing larger-scale hoaxes.
As April Fools’ is celebrated in different ways throughout the world, it is unknown exactly how the tradition originated. Some cultures saw it as the first day of spring, celebrating with general merriment and feasting, and certain calendars may consider it the first day of the year. One theory for the terming of an April Fool was that some refused to follow these calendars that recognized April 1st as the first day of the year, which resulted in being called an April Fool.
There are a few other theories as to precursors to the holiday tradition. Hilaria, a Roman festival, which celebrated Cybele, an Anatolian goddess, was celebrated around March 25th. The Feast of Fools was a term given to many medieval festivals celebrated during the fifth-sixteenth centuries in Europe, but particularly at the end of December. These celebrations developed a tradition of practical jokes, especially when observed in Spain.
However, the tradition of practical jokes had been well established by 1632, when legend states that the Duke of Lorraine and his wife escaped a prison at Nantes by dressing as peasants, walking right out the front gate. When the guards were alerted to the escape, they laughed at what they thought was an April Fools’ prank. One of the first April Fools’ pranks occurred in 1698, when citizens of London were tricked into attending the lion-washing ceremony at the Tower of London, a ceremony that did not actually exist.