Some Say April Fools Day Originated In Germany

By Darlene Fuchs on Email

Could it be that April Fool’s Day, sometimes called All Fools’ Day, originated in Germany? On April 1, 1530 a meeting of lawmakers was supposed to occur in Augsburg, Germany in order to consider various financial matters. Because of time considerations, the meeting did not take place. But numerous speculators, who had bet on the meeting occurring, lost their money and were ridiculed. This is said to have been the origin of the tradition of playing pranks on April 1.

The day is celebrated in many countries with the execution of elaborate practical jokes on unsuspecting victims. April 1st is the accepted date for April Fool’s Day, when both simple and very sophisticated jokes are known to catch the unwary or the gullible off guard.

There is evidence of a similar day in the Gregorian calendar of 1582 and even as far back as ancient Rome when the practice would have been observed on New Year’s Day.  Throughout France in the early sixteenth century, New Year’s Day was observed on March 25, the advent of spring. The celebrations, which included exchanging gifts, ran for a week, terminating with dinners and parties on April 1.

In 1563 King Charles IX proclaimed that New Year’s Day be moved back to January 1. His proclamation was passed into law by the French Parliament on Dec. 22, 1564. According to a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1. Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on “fool’s errands” or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe.

There are at least two difficulties with this explanation. The first is that it doesn’t fully account for the spread of April Fools’ Day to other European countries. The Gregorian calendar was not adopted by England until 1752, for example, but April Fools’ Day was already well established there by that point.

Many theories have been put forward about how the tradition began. Unfortunately, none of them are very compelling. So the origin of the “custom of making April Fools” remains a mystery to some, but as for me I choose to believe it started in Germany.

Darlene Fuchs