01 Apr 2010

The possible origins of April Fool’s Day.

Pesce d’Aprile

April 1st already… April Fool’s Day in many countries, in Italy we call it Pesce d’Aprile, literally “April fish”! Not sure why. As usual, I am fascinated by the origins of present day “holidays”. Not surprisingly, the tradition of organizing practical jokes on the first day of April has ancient roots.

Some people believe that it goes back to the times when New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25th (see my blog entry about Capodanno Pisano, here in Pisa they still celebrate it). The celebrations lasted for a whole week and April 1st was the last day. When the celebrations were moved to January 1st, a curious habit of exchanging empty gift boxes became popular in France, probably as a way to make fun of those who continued to celebrate the new year on April 1st.

Other people hypothesize that the origins of April Fool’s Day go back to the Antiquity instead, and would be rooted in the story of Proserpina. She was abducted by Pluto and her mother Ceres looked for her everywhere, but was tricked by some nymphs and didn’t find her for a long, long time.  The legend itself is beautiful and poetic, and it’s meant to explain the alternation of the seasons. You can read about it here.


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