The absurd ancestry of April fools.

Every year, as soon as the arrival of the first of April is near, we all get ready to humour ourselves by tricking and fooling those around us. Closely followed by a quick justifying explanation of “April Fools!” But do we really know why we do this and how April fools came to be?

There are many different theories that surround the origin of April fools day; some of them seem to be more plausible and understandable than others. These are just some of the explanations that have seemed to occur over the years.


It has been said that a story told by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century- in which a fox plays a trick on a rooster- is the first reference to the idea of playing pranks on people on the first of April as this is when the poem is thought to have been set. Although it does not directly refer to it being set on April 1st, in the poem he says 32 days “syn march began” which could be seen as the 1st of April.

2-The weather!

Being British we will find a way to link each and every part of our day to the weather. Somehow. And April fools day is no exception. Another theory about the origin of April fools day is that at the beginning of April the weather seems to be a bit more pleasant. But, of course, that doesn’t  last long and as soon as we update and rearrange our wardrobes we are back needing our winter jackets again and we have been tricked, yet again, into believing that spring has come!

3-The changing of calendars.

One final theory, and probably the most plausible one, dates all the way back to 1564 when France formally changed its calendar from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian version. This meant that the celebration of the New Year was now, as we know, on the 1st of January rather than 1st of April. Those that failed to receive the message and continued to celebrate the New Year were derided as fools. ‘April Fools’.

There are many more theories and ideas surrounding the derivation of April fools day so you can continue to explore and make up your own mind as to why it came to be. Maybe you can use this decades old conundrum to impress a few people at a party one day! 

Ellie Gray- Eltham Hill School