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Updated 01 April 2014

Why do we celebrate April Fool's Day?

Every year we get caught out by April Fool stories. But what is the history behind this custom?

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Every year we get caught out by April Fool stories. Mozambique becoming a province of SA, a washing powder that irons your clothes for you, or the whole of Cape Town being changed into a theme park. But what is the history behind this custom?

The celebration of April Fool's Day can be traced back for centuries and seemed to have evolved from spring day celebrations in the northern hemisphere.

New Year also used to be celebrated on this day, until the Gregorian Calendar was introduced in the sixteenth century and New Year was moved to the 1st of January.

Those who were ignorant enough to continue celebrating New Year on the 1st of April, were called April fools and were often made fun of or sent on ridiculous errands.

Over time, this tradition evolved into general prank-playing, and spread from France to England and Scotland and to America in the eighteenth century.

Practical jokes take on many different forms – from setting someone's alarm clock an hour back to prank calls to hoaxnewspaper stories or more elaborate hoaxes involving several people.

The first big media story on April Fool's Day came from the British media in 1958 and involved a lengthy report on Italian spaghetti farmers and how they harvest their crops.


Susan Erasmus, Health24

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