The Origin of April Fool's Day --- the Relationship between April Fool's Day & the Gregorian Calendar.

Until the late16th century, most Western nations observed New Year's Day on April 1st,* which closely follows the Vernal Equinox.  They used the Julian Calendar, invented by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.  The Julian Calendar was quite accurate, but it is 11.5 minutes a year longer than the solar calendar.  This error is tiny, but by the 16th century the Julian Calendar was 10 days behind the solar calendar. In the late 1500s, Pope Gregory XIII** ordered a new calendar to replace the Julian calendar for the Christian world in order to correct the error.  The new calendar was called the "Gregorian Calendar," under which New Year's Day is observed on January 1st.
 
Some people didn't believe this new calendar or didn't know about the change.  As a result, some people continued to observe New Year's Day on April 1st.  Other people who had already adopted the new calendar started making fun of or tricking the people who continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April 1st.  They called them, "April Fools." It looks like this became the origin of "April Fool's Day." In France, it is just a special day for kids to laugh at other kids or adults by hanging paper fishes on their backs.  When the "Fool" is aware of this trick, the kids will cry "Poisson d’Avril!(April Fish!)"  Scotland also has another joke; see the source below.


In spite of Pope Gregory's time error correction, many Protestant countries, including England, ignored Pope Gregory's new calendar.  For example,
Germany and the Netherlands agreed to adopt the Gregorian Calendar in 1698. 

Finally, around 1750
England and the American colonies adopted the Gregorian Calendar. Before the calendar adoption in England, England and the American colonies celebrated New Year's Day on March 25*, the first day of spring.  Back then the English calendar differed from the continental European calendar by 11 days.  By the way, Japan adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1873. 

Today some Americans also play jokes on strangers as well as buddies on April 1st. Two typical pranks on April Fool's Day here are "Your shoe's untied!" and setting your roommate's alarm clock back one hour.  Here are true stories from an American! (see Appendix)

April Fool's Day is a holiday only for fun.  There are no gift exchanges and no one treats his significant other at a fancy restaurant on this day.  In addition, nobody gets off work or school.  On this day, however, you must think twice before believing what someone says to you.

*Some articles say New Year's Day was April 1st, some say it was March 25 or about March 21, the Vernal Equinox (First Day of Spring), and the others say New Year's Day began on March 25 and the celebration culminated on April 1st.

** In France Charles IX introduced the Gregorian calendar.

Sources:
<
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/aprilfools1.html >
<
http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/society/A0804428.html >
History of the Calendar & Adoption Year of the Gregorian Calendar for Each Nation < http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0002061.html >
New Year's Day for England and the American colonies:  St. Paul Pioneer Press, March 20, 2003
April Fool's Day in Scotland "Taily Day" >> "kick me" sign? <
http://wilstar.com/holidays/aprilfool.htm >
For kids < 
http://www.teacherlink.usu.edu/tlresources/units/Byrnes-celebrations/april.html  >

Click here for Appendix A, B, and C (download: 4 sec): True stories from two Americans!  Comments from a Japanese who has been living in the US over ten years.  

  
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