April 1: Where did April Fool’s Day come from?

April 1: Where did April Fool's Day come from?


The French and Germans consider a person who believed in an April Fool’s joke to be a fool who swallowed an “April fish.” The British call this day “All Fools’ Day”. They used to like to repeat: “The first of April – don’t trust anyone!” The origins of the holiday and the history of its appearance in Russia are in the Kommersant reference.

Origins of the holiday

In the old days, people put on masks and dressed up in carnival costumes when they burned a straw effigy during winter farewell. This was done in order to deceive winter and prevent it from finding those responsible for its “death,” and laughter was perceived as an antagonist of winter seriousness associated with the image of death.

The custom of the April Fool’s masquerade was widespread in ancient India, where this holiday was also the first day of the new year. A traditional “Guli” performance was held, the participants of which wore masks so that the god of destruction and death Shiva would not recognize them. In modern India, Spring Festival is celebrated on March 26 and 27. People put on their worst clothes, spray each other with red, yellow and blue paint and walk around like that for two days.

April Fools’ Days were common in Ancient Greece and Rome. The god of laughter, Rhizus, bore the epithets of the “holiest and greatest” among the ancient Romans. The April Fool’s celebration is mentioned in Apuleius’s novel The Golden Ass: “So, throw this grief out of your head and drive away sadness from your soul. After all, these games, which we solemnly and publicly celebrate every year in honor of the most merciful God of Laughter, are always decorated with some new invention.”

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the holiday spread throughout Western Europe. Many as a source point to the medieval Easter mysteries, in which scenes of the last days of the life of Jesus Christ were reproduced, betrayed by Judas and sent by the high priest Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod and from Herod again to Pilate.

April 1 in Russia

In Russia, April Fool’s Day appeared under Peter I. In 1700, a massive prank took place: a troupe of actors announced throughout Moscow that they would fit entirely through the neck into an ordinary bottle. When the audience had gathered, the curtain rose, and everyone saw a banner on the stage with the inscription: “It’s the first of April, and that’s the end of the whole thing.” In the second half of the 17th century, they began to specially compose works for the comic day. Tsar Alexander I was also a fan of practical jokes. A poem by Pushkin dedicated to state humor has been preserved:

The king’s eyebrows are furrowed,

Said: “Yesterday

A storm has struck

Monument to Peter.”

He got scared.

“I didn’t know!.. Really?”

The king laughed:

“First, brother, April!”

In 1846, the comic almanac “The First of April” was published, the authors of which were Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolai Nekrasov and Dmitry Grigorovich.

In Soviet times, the tradition of practical jokes was preserved, as mentioned in the novel “The Golden Calf” by Ilf and Petrov: “As for the colleagues, they were serious people and joked only once a year – on the first of April. And even on this day of fun and joyful hoaxes, they operated with only one sad joke: they typed out a fake order for Kukushkind’s dismissal and placed it on his desk. And every time for seven years the old man clutched his heart, which greatly amused everyone.”


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