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Business News/ News / Trends/  April Fool's Day 2024: How did annual custom of jokes and pranks begin?
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April Fool's Day 2024: How did annual custom of jokes and pranks begin?

April Fool's Day is marked with jokes and pranks every year, with unverified theories about its origin including references to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and a biblical story about Noah and the ark.

April Fool's Day 2024: Some suggest that the concept of April Fool's Day is linked to The Canterbury Tales while others link it to biblical tales about Noah's Ark.Premium
April Fool's Day 2024: Some suggest that the concept of April Fool's Day is linked to The Canterbury Tales while others link it to biblical tales about Noah's Ark.

April Fool's Day 2024: The first day of April is marked with jokes and pranks every year — a custom known somewhat colloquially as ‘April Fool’s Day’. There are several unverified theories regarding the origin of this practice — from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to a war in the Netherlands. Various companies and media organisations have also been drawn into the practice over the years, participating in elaborate hoaxes that are revealed during later days of the month.

Vague references to April Fool's Day can be found as early as the 1500s and grew increasingly popular over the decades. By the eighteenth century, it appears to have become a well-established custom in parts of Europe. Its exact origin however remains unclear with several origin stories from various countries.

Some suggest that the concept of April Fool's Day is linked to The Canterbury Tales. One of the verses penned by Geoffrey Chaucer — The Nun's Priest's Tale — recounts how vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox some 32 days after March began. Many modern scholars however believe this to be a copying error in presently available manuscripts.

Another theory traces the occasion back to biblical roots — to the time of Noah and the ark. Cartoonist Bertha R. McDonald cited a London Public Advertiser excerpt from 1769 to explain its correlation with Noah erroneously sending the dove out before the water had abated (on April 1).

“The mistake of Noah sending the dove out of the ark before the water had abated, on the first day of April, and to perpetuate the memory of this deliverance it was thought proper, whoever forgot so remarkable a circumstance, to punish them by sending them upon some sleeveless errand similar to that ineffectual message upon which the bird was sent by the patriarch," she cited in an article for Harper's Weekly in 1908.

Meanwhile in the Netherlands, April 1 is synonymous with the defeat of Spanish Duke Álvarez de Toledo. The Capture of Brielle in 1572 however makes no mention of foolish pranks or indeed any of the activities that currently mark the celebration of April Fool's Day.

It is also postulated that April 1 was a holiday in parts of Europe during the Middle Ages, following New Year celebrations on March 25. This theory however fails to account for a 1561 poem by Flemish poet Eduard de Dene about a nobleman who sent his servant on foolish errands on April 1. April Fool's Day was also a widely accepted concept in Great Britain before January 1 became the established start of the calendar year.

 

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Published: 01 Apr 2024, 06:16 AM IST
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