Where does April Fools' Day come from?

Last updated at 05:25
1st of April

On 1 April, you might be planning to be mischievous and play pranks on your friends and family.

That's because it's April Fools' Day, when anyone can play the joker!

April Fools' has been celebrated in the UK since the beginning of the 19th century but there are lots of different theories and explanations about where it originally came from.

Let's take a look at some of the best.

Poetry
Could April Fools' Day be connected to poetry?iStock/Getty
Could April Fools' Day be connected to poetry?

According to historians, some say 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 1 April.

The poet doesn't actually directly refer to the date though. In the poem, he says 32 days "syn March began", which people have said is "32 days since March began" which would be the first day of April.

But those who don't believe this theory say he was just using confusing words to make fun of people in the poem.

Calendars
Calendaristock/Getty Images
Is 1 April the right day to celebrate Fools' Day?

Some believe the tradition started because of events in the calendar.

Something called renewal festivals date back to Roman times. These were big celebrations at the start of a new year or season.

As part of the festivities normal life went out of the window. According to historian Andrea Livesey, "servants could control masters and children were allowed to control their parents". Imagine that!

March is the time of the Spring Equinox, so people think the joker tradition could come from this, as the beginning of spring and planting flowers was once considered the start of the new year.

So when new year moved to the beginning of January, instead of the end of March, those who continued to celebrate it at the end of March, rather than on 1 January like we do today, were considered to be fools and had jokes played on them.

Fish
fool fishistock/Getty Images
In some parts of Europe, an April Fools' prank is to stuck a fish to someone's back

The earliest records of 1 April being marked in this way are from France and Holland in the 1500s and, because of this, people believe that it could have been a northern European tradition that spread to Britain.

It is actually known as April Fish Day in some areas of Europe.

People think this is because there are a lot of fish in French streams and rivers around 1 April, and they are easy to catch - foolish fish!

So it soon became a tradition to play tricks on people on 1 April too.

"It is still a common trick in France, and elsewhere in Europe, to attach a paper fish to somebody's back on April Fools' Day, and also to give chocolate fish as gifts," Andrea said.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway have created a train carriage dedicated just to dogs.NYMR/Gough Bailey Wright
In 2018 the North Yorkshire Moors Railway said it had created a train carriage dedicated just to dogs, but it was a cheeky 'tail'!

So it appears we don't actually know for sure where April Fools' Day officially started.

But one thing's for sure - people have been playing jokes on 1 April for a very long time.

So watch out that you don't get pranked!