April Fool’s Day is celebrated around the world as a day of the joke, a New Year, or springtime. It is the time of awakening of nature and people alike through festivals, dancing, food, masquerades, parades, and other miscellaneous traditions. According to Time Magazine, even though the origin of April Fools Day is hard to tell and to say when it actually started, it is believed that it followed the Gregorian calendar until it was moved as a New Year on January 1. Those who kept the old traditions were called “fools.” Different countries kept their cultural ways to today, and nowhere is celebrated the same.
Iran and other countries in Central Asia have quite a spectacular celebration starting from the equinox up to April 1 or April 2, lasting 13 days. This time of the year is called Nowruz (New Year). In Iran, there is a table in each house decorated with a apples (seeb) for beauty, garlic (seer) for good health, vinegar (serkeh) for patience, hyacinth (sonbol) for spring, sweet pudding (samanu) for fertility, sprouts (sabzeh) for rebirth, and coins (sekeh) for prosperity. The tables have additional adds, such as a religions book, a mirror, candles, and other decorations. The thirteenth day of New Year is called Seezdah Bedar “getting rid of thirteen” which means that children and adults can end the celebration by a fun picnic outing, games and jokes with friends and family. Sizdah Bedar was also believed to be a day when it was asked for rain in the ancient times, and the ancient Persians played games with horses.
India celebrates the Holi Day on March 31, which is a day to paint people with different colors while singing and dancing festival songs. Hindu people believe that this is the festival that bridges between the good and the bad, and renews relationships. During Holi, people can send gifts to each other with blessings of love and acceptance.
Macedonia is a common place for spring masquerades and parades. April Fools Day is celebrated through telling wise lies to family and friends. The children and adults dress up in different masks and pretend to be who they are dressed as. The schools hold contests for best masks, and the downtown areas in every town are having masquerade parades and dancing ensembles.
France has a special name for April Fools Day “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish). Schoolchildren can draw and paint pictures of fish and stick it on a victim’s back. They are believed to have started the notion of celebrating April Fools Day around the world, because King Charles wanted to change the celebration day of New Year, but the ‘fools’ didn’t agree with the change and continued to celebrate it on this day.
Portugal has a custom where people can throw floor at each other. They also tell each other jokes and play other pranks.
Sweden is full of practical jokes where the media gets involved. A lot of stories are being made up and it is common to be fooled at the workplace. One of the best Swedish pranks was in 1962, when they said that the black and white televisions can be turned in color by stretching a nylon over it. Children sing on this day “April, April, you fish, I can fool you as I wish.”
Russia celebrates it by implying practical jokes between friends and family, children and adults, but it is not recognized in the workplace. The Russian media usually gets involved by posting prank articles. In 2008, there was an article that confused the officials whether they should sing the national anthem each time a baby was born to promote patriotism. On the Russian theatre stages and other public venues, it is a night for good comedy laughs and concerts.
There are a countless number of unique ways for April Fools Day pranks around the world. It is a joyful day for everyone to laugh and enjoy it without taking things for granted at least for one day of the year.
Commentary by Marija Makeska