The Fish of April Fool’s

We have all looked forward to April 1st as a day to play pranks on friends and family. Some people plan the day out weeks in advance to make sure their joke is 100% on point.

A common tradition throughout the world is to prank people with absurd news. One of the most famous examples was the hoax documentary broadcast by BBC about the spaghetti tree harvest in Ticino, Switzerland.

Other pranks of note include the Netherlands’ announcement in 1960 that the Leaning Tower of Pisa had fallen over; Pizza Hut introduced new scratch and sniff menus; CERN confirmed that the Force is real.

But how did all of this get started, you ask?

Let’s go back 500 years to 1582 when the French switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. This meant that the first day of the year moved from April 1st to January 1st.

As news didn’t travel very quickly back then peasants and lower class citizens were the last to get the memo, or so the story goes. Because of this, those people continued to celebrate the new year on April 1st instead of the newly accepted January 1st. And so, those people were dubbed “fools” and pranked by the more in-touch groups of society.

Way back then, when pranks first started, the trick played was often to give the fool a fake fish. Why a fish? Well, April 1st falls right at the end of Lent- a time when Catholics fasted from certain foods like meat and fish. Plus, this was the beginning of spring at which time gifting people real fish was common.

The joke changed over the years and instead of giving people fake fish so much, children would stick a picture of a fish onto other children’s backs (perhaps this spawned other signs children now put on each other’s backs).


The whole thing didn’t really kick off until about 1700 when people started to tell extravagant stories and play more intricate pranks.

But if you’re out of ideas for this year’s Aprils Fool’s just draw a little fish and tape it to someone’s back.


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