Perhaps the most fun-filled day of the year for many, April Fool's Day allows even the most sincere and pragmatic of us to let loose and have a little bit of fun during the winter to spring transition. Not celebrated in the traditional sense with food or festivals or family gatherings, we instead look forward to delivering a prank or two to the ones we love and care about the most.
Somewhat surprisingly, the holiday began and evolved as most have. The oldest traditions and historical tales that we know about can be tracked back as far as the Roman Empire in its own celebration of "Hilaria." Later, possible references can be found throughout the literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In many cultures during the Middle Ages, the new year began on March 25 and culminated on the first of April after a week-long celebration. It has been surmised that the day as we know it found its roots through those celebrations, which happened to occur predominantly in France.
In the United States of America, the tradition of playing jokes and helping to enable carefree pranks on others without any direct responsibility can hardly be escaped. Whether at home, out and about, or stuck at the office, signs can be found everywhere. Websites habitually bombard the internet with completely bogus news stories and many true stories simply focus on the hoaxes that have become so pervasive around the country due to feedback generated by the internet.
Perhaps unknown to many of us here in the states, other countries have their own longstanding traditions. Scotland, for instance, is known for citizens sending messages with elaborate and amusing, but fake, instructions back and forth. Belgium, Italy, and France have thematic pranks involving the "April's Fish." Iran also joins the fun with traditions that go as far back as 536 BC. Some other countries do not celebrate on the first of April, but have holidays at other times during which similar traditions and celebrations occur.
Although April Fool's Day is not particularly known for any real association to festivities or food, it does land in the middle of seasonal transition which results in many deals and clearance inventory from winter and fall. It can therefore be a great time to pick up holiday or seasonal items for later in the year. DealYard sells a variety of electric blankets, for example. Then again, spring items are in great demand and outdoor items such as tents or sleeping bags are traditionally discounted at this time of the year.
Whether you're prepared to plunge into the sea of traditional pranks and joking around or just feel like hanging back inside to avoid the craziness, now might be a great time to think about the coming seasons and what they have in store for you and the family. Maybe a vacation is in order!