April 1: Fools' Day origins and controversy
April Fools’ Day is celebrated every year on the first day of April by playing practical jokes and spreading hoaxes.
The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one's neighbor is recognized everywhere.
Among precursors of April Fools' Day, we remember Geoffrey Chaucer with his work "The Canterbury Tales" (1392), which contains the first recorded association between April 1 and foolishness.
In 1508, the French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to "poisson d'avril," which literally means "April's fish." In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1.
In the Middle Ages, New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on April 1, and some writers suggest that April Fools' Day originated because those who celebrated New Year's on Jan. 1 made fun of those who celebrated it on other dates.
The practice of April Fools' Day pranks and hoaxes is controversial. Different critics' opinions can be summarized in the reception of the 1957 BBC prank "Spaghetti-tree hoax," a three-minute hoax report broadcast on April Fools' Day by a BBC current-affairs program. Newspapers were split over whether it was "a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public."
The positive view is that April Fools' Day can be healthy because it encourages lightheartedness and brings all the benefits of laughter, including stress relief and less strain on the heart.
There are many "best of" April Fools' Day lists compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the holiday is celebrated. Various April Fools' Day campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing and general effort.
The infographic below shows the different traditions related to this day around the world.
Cover credit: Kidzworld.com (full link)