April Fools' Day: What is it and why do we perform tricks on each other?

Try not to get caught out

What is April Fool's Day and what are its origins?

April Fools' Day is almost here which, along with the onslaught of April showers, can only mean one thing: the most mischievous among us are already planning the tricks we will play on unsuspecting friends and family.

A tradition that’s celebrated around the world, April Fools' Day is an opportunity for people to inject some lighthearted fun into an otherwise ordinary day.

But when did the day of trickery begin, who celebrates it and what are some of the best ways to get involved this year?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is April Fool's Day?

April Fools' Day, or All Fools' Day as it’s sometimes known, takes place on 1 April every year.

The custom sees people play tricks or jokes on others and if that person falls for the prank, they are called an “April Fool”.

However, if you want to take part you need to be quick as tradition in the UK states you can only play tricks on people up until midday.

When did April Fools' Day begin?

Although April Fools' Day has been celebrated for centuries, its exact origin remains a mystery.

According to Andrea Livesey, a historian from the University of Bristol, not everyone agrees where the tradition came from.

“Some have argued that a story told by early English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century – where a fox plays a prank on a rooster – is the first reference to pranks taking place on the first of April,” Livesey told BBC Newsround.

However, the poet doesn't directly refer to 1 April. Instead, Chaucer says 32 days ”syn March began“, which people have taken to mean ”32 days since March began“ which would be April 1st.

Livesey went on to explain that some believe the tradition started because of events in the calendar, particularly one called the Renewal Festival which dates back to Roman times.

A celebration that occurred at the start of a new year or season, the event often turned things on their head or “topsy turvy”, with servants controlling their masters or children controlling their parents.

How is April Fools' Day celebrated around the world?

April Fools' Day, or Dia Da Mentira "Day of Lies" as it’s known in Brazil, is celebrated by people around the world but different countries all have their own traditions.

In Belgium, Italy and France, the day is also called “April Fish Day” – Poisson d’Avril in French, or pesce d'aprile in Italian – and sees children taping paper fish onto people's backs.

Meanwhile, “Prima Aprilis, uważaj, bo się pomylisz!” is a phrase you might hear spoken on April 1 in Poland. This translates to: “April Fools' Day, be careful — you can be wrong!”

In Scotland, a foolish person is called a "gowk", so it makes sense that the day is traditionally known as" Hunt the Gowk Day".

Here, April Fools' Day is celebrated for the first two days of April. The first day is spent pranking and hoaxing people, while the second — known as Tailie Day — is when people place tails on each other's backs.

In the UK, pranks and jokes are performed until about noon and can include everything from placing a whoopee cushion onto someone’s chair to replacing Oreo biscuits' sweet fillings with toothpaste.

Some countries also have similar traditions that take place at other times of the year.

On 28 December, people in Spain celebrate The Day of the Holy Innocents — a day when everyone, including the media, is allowed to play practical jokes.

What were some of last year’s best April Fools' Day pranks?

Last year, a number of media outlets and big brands played pranks on the public.

Google marked April Fools' Day by incorporating Where's Wally? into its maps, enabling users to search for the character and his signature red-and-white stripes in real locations around the world.

Coca-Cola and Heinz also played tricks on their customers. While the former said it was going to launch three new flavours of is sugar-free Zero drink including avocado, sourdough and charcoal, Heinz unveiled a new product called “Chocolate Mayonnaise”.

Google's contribution to this year's April Fool's Day involved Where's Wally (Google Maps )

Scandinavian homeware retailer Clas Ohlson also brought another product launch announcement - bottles of fresh “Swedish air”.

Featuring a “classically Swedish design” and bottled in the area surrounding Insjön, Clas Ohlson’s founding town, the product apparently allowed British customers to “breathe like a Swede” and was advertised for £1.04.

Has genuine news been mistaken for a prank on April Fools' Day before?

Yes. April Fools' Day often means that people are slightly suspicious of what they read in the media in an effort to avoid being tricked by a prank story.

However, there have been a number of stories which, despite seeming far-fetched, were in fact genuine.

On 1 April 1946, the most destructive tsunami in Hawaii's modern history occurred on the island's shorelines. The disaster, which killed 159 people, became known as the April Fools' Day Tsunami because many people thought it to be an April Fool's Day prank.

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