Interesting XX Century

April Fools’ Day is Older Than We Think


Ah, April Fools’ Day, one of the best unofficial holidays of the calendar. It’s the perfect day to fact-check everything you see, whether it’s online or not, since you never know when people are trying to swindle you. On every other day of the year, feel free to fall victim to fake news and emails from Nigerian princes.

Although April Fools’ Day might seem pretty modern, its roots are actually deeply ingrained in history. For centuries, people from across the globe have been trying to do one better than their peers. While the exact origins of April Fools’ are unknown, there are plenty of historical records that show how our ancestors would celebrate the prankster’s holiday.

Cybele Cult’s Hilaria Day

April Fools’ has been linked back to the Hilaria festivals, which was celebrated in Rome on the tail-end of March. A Cybele cult celebrated the occasion by dressing up and mocking other people, including political figures. Some claim that this celebration drew inspiration from the Ancient Egyptian deities Isi, Osiris, and Seth.

Vernal Equinox

Others predict that April Fools’ came about as a way to welcome the vernal equinox—the first day of spring. Like the changing of seasons, people would change their attire and behaviors for a couple of days. Pranks weren’t a big part of celebrating the vernal equinox, but some cultures held dancing ceremonies and musical festivals.

Iconic April Fools’ Pranks in Modern History

Even the press has been involved in playing pranks on their readers and viewers. The BBC reported in 1957 that farmers in Switzerland were experiencing record-number spaghetti crops while showing footage of farmers harvesting noodle trees. Sports Illustrated even got in on the fun when a writer tricked its readers by publishing a fake article on how rookie pitcher Sidd Finch had pitched a ball at over 160 MPH.

Taco Bell announced in 1996 that they had purchased the Liberty Bell from Philly with the intention of renaming it to the Taco Liberty Bell. That stirred up a bit of havoc until viewers looked at the calendar. Burger King also tricked its customers by offering a left-handed Whopper, which caused an influx of Whopper orders that day.