“Keep your phones on. I’m being arrested.”
This message appeared on my phone just after midnight on April 1 in a group conversation I share with friends. I was tired and on my way to bed, not thinking about the fact that it was no longer March 31 and that the friend who sent the message is one of the few people I keep in my company that would love to take advantage of April Fools’ Day.
I sent him over a couple of quick responses. Mostly I was confused — I didn’t honestly think he was texting while being arrested, but I didn’t know what to make of it. He didn’t respond for a good half hour and eventually — after a bit of panic had ensued within our group message — he finally responded:
“I got you guys. April Fools’!”
I wasn’t all that amused, but it wasn’t until the next night that I realized he was the only person in my life that had attempted any sort of April Fools’ Day prank on me. Despite run-ins with multiple people, no one even made mention of the day. It made me somewhat appreciative of my friend’s simple attempt to trick us into believing he was being arrested.
It was a little disappointing to realize April 1 had passed by without anyone sending me into a panic over a fake pregnancy or setting up an elaborate practical joke that would lead to me suffering some sort of humiliation. To be fair, I can’t think of a time I’ve ever gone out of my way to pull a prank on April Fools’ Day. Other days, sure, but I’ve always felt they’re destined to fail on a day where people are anticipating it.
The premise of April Fools’ Day has always been a bit confusing in and of itself. While in theory it is a fun to imagine a day where we all go around trying to deceive or do something foolish to those around us in order to gain a reaction or a few laughs, why do we do this in the first place, and where does the tradition stem from?
It’s not a holiday. The Internet can clarify that much. No country categorizes it as a holiday, but many countries still partake in the day filled with hoaxes and jokes—from India, to Scotland, to France, all of these countries celebrate April Fools’ Day in some fashion, though it might not be identical to the way we do so in the U.S.
In France, it’s tradition to tape a picture of a fish on the back of a person and wait for them to realize it’s attached to them. The infamous “kick me” sign that one may jokingly stick on someone’s back seems to have originated in Scotland.
The origin of the day itself though is a bit hazy. Theories and tales of where and how the day may have come to be what we observe now vary, but the most prevalent explanation seems to be that in the 1500’s, the Gregorian calendar was adopted and with that came the change of the date of the new year. It was moved from April 1 to January 1, but not all were aware of the change, and those who still celebrated the new year of April 1 were ridiculed and called fools because of it.
And now, hundreds of years later, we plant whoopee cushions in our co-workers chairs and text our friends that we’re being arrested, all because of a group of people who refused to accept a change in the calendar.