April Fools' Day Traditions Around The World

N Wong via Creative Commons at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nwongpr/
N Wong via Creative Commons

One of the most interesting and exciting festivals on the calendar around the world is April Fools' Day, a tradition where people look to play pranks on friends, relatives, and even the whole country if they get the chance. There are many different variations on the festival throughout the world, and each country has a particularly distinctive way of pulling off jokes and pranks together to make for an enjoyable day. In general, the aim of the day is good-natured, and those who are playing the pranks will do so on friends and family in good humor, rather than trying to genuinely hurt or offend someone.

April Fools' in the UK

Simple pranks are the order of the day on 1 April in the UK, with sticking 'kick me' signs on to the back of somebody surreptitiously, or sending a friend on an errand for something foolish such as a can of tartan paint or a gallon of air being typical. This only applies up until midday on the 1 April, and after that, any further pranks will make the prankster the fool, and not the victim. In Scotland, the festival was known as 'Huntigowk Day', with the tradition being to try and get somebody to carry a message for you in an envelope, which then asked the recipient to send the individual on to another person with a completely wasted journey.

News Headlines on April Fools' Day

A great tradition that has developed in the UK, United States and many other countries is that news organizations try to create a story that is just clever enough to catch someone off guard, which has led to some hilarious TV and newspaper moments. The BBC's report on spaghetti trees in the 1950s actually led to people inquiring in garden centers about where they could buy a tree to grow their own spaghetti. Another famous story saw a newspaper claim that the police had devised a new camera which could be mounted on the claws of a hawk, which would then sweep down over the highway to catch speeding drivers.

Prima Aprilis in Poland

The celebration of playing jokes and pranks is particularly popular in Poland, and there are many people who will take the day off work so that they can enjoy the opportunity to play tricks on friends and neighbors. The fact that so many people thought that everything that happened on that day was a joke has even seen political leaders dating documents for 31 March, specifically to avoid a serious issue being dismissed as an April Fools' joke.

Kithbet Neesan in Iraq

The people of Iraq have had a tough time over recent decades, and while the tradition of April Fools' was imported under the name Kithbet Neesan in the mid-twentieth century, the humor has taken a darker tone in the country over recent years. The literal translation of the name is 'April Lie', and this reflects the type of prank that is carried out, and these can range from stories of a husband buying his wife a new car as a surprise to something darker such as a shooting or a kidnapping. Indeed, in 1998 a newspaper headline claimed that US occupation was coming to an end and that George Bush would apologize for the war – an example of an 'April Lie' done by Saddam Hussein's son Uday.

April Fish In France, Belgium, and Italy

This is one of the more unusual associations, and the origin remains to be speculated upon, but many countries in Western Europe have the tradition of April Fish. This largely involves children and young people drawing a picture of a fish, or cutting out a picture of the fish, and then trying to stick this to the back of somebody else without them noticing. There is also a tradition over recent years of including pictures of fish in unusual places and posting them on social media.

Sizdah Bedar in Iran

This date can either fall on the first or the second of April in Iran, as the celebration is the thirteenth day of the Nowruz New year festival, and combines some of the traditions of prank-playing with the religious origins of the holiday. The adoption of the April Fools' pranks and jokes give this day an air of celebration, and these pranks are certainly good-natured, and usually played in the outdoors. The tradition in Iran on this day is to head out into the local park or open area and to share a picnic or barbecue with friends and family.