Some sources show that the special significance of April 1 arose with the French change to the Gregorian calendar, as commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Before that time, New Year was celebrated from March 25 to April 1. With the change of the calendar system, New Year was moved to January 1. People who forgot this or who refused to accept the new calendar system received invitations to non-held parties, funny presents and so on.
However, this explanation is unlikely: the April 1 joke is mentioned earlier in a French source from 1508, well before that time. The first mention in a Dutch-language source dates from around 1560 in Bruges, a poem by the shipping company Eduard de Dene. It is a parody on "April 1," in which a servant sees through his master's plan to send him. History goes back at least to the beginning of the sixteenth century. However, the wide spread of the phenomenon indicates an older origin.
According to another theory, the April 1 joke originated from an earlier medieval festival: the feast of the fools. La fête des fous was particularly popular in France from the 5th to the 16th century. It was celebrated around January 1 by choosing a false pope or bishop and was accompanied by all kinds of rituals and festivities during which the clergy were parodied. On the basis of this were, in all likelihood, former pagan saturnalia.
Explanations were sought in the changeable April weather and parallels with Germanic mythology and with Biblical history. National events have also been cited as the beginning of tradition in various countries. These statements, which were probably made up as April jokes themselves, sometimes lead to a persistent life to this day. In the Netherlands, for example, it is often thought that the joke maker started taking Den Briel by the water giants on April 1, 1572, as appears from a well-known saying: On April 1, Alva lost his glasses. The fact that 1 April jokes are also made outside the Netherlands is overlooked.
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