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"The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year."
-Mark Twain

A group of children snicker as one places a `Kick Me' sign on a friend's back...

Your little brother yells, "Made you look!" after he has misinformed you of your shoes being untied...

You try to trick your best friend into thinking the boy she likes has come over for a visit...

You look for a good place to hide your brother's favorite video game...

Some of these scenarios probably sound pretty familiar to you. Would you remember the date an incident like that had occurred? If you have been on the giving or receiving end of any of those pranks, chances are you may remember the month and the day it happened. It was quite possibly the first day of April.

April Fool's Day is a day when people like to play harmless tricks on their friends and family. Most of the time, we know we are not supposed to tease others, but tricks that make everyone laugh are acceptable on April 1. How on earth did this tradition get started? Would you believe it had to do with changes to the calendar?

Back in 46BC, Julius Caesar revised the Roman calendar used at that time. He instituted leap year, adding an extra day to February every four years, but it wasn't strictly followed. Caesar Augustus made corrections again in 8BC; we get the month "August" from his name. In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine reformed the calendar by introducing the seven-day week. Even after all of these changes, the year was still not coinciding with the seasons: the beginning of Spring was falling in early March by the 16th century. So in 1582, Gregory XIII revised leap year again and deleted 10 days from the month of October. Imagine going to sleep the night of October 4 and waking up—the very next day—on the morning of October 15!

Another problem Gregory saw was the observance of the New Year. Julius Caesar had recognized it as January 1, but over the years, different countries grew to observe different days. Some celebrated it on February 1, some on March 1, and still others on Easter. The church celebrated New Year's on March 25. People would celebrate for 8 days—until the first day of April. To avoid confusion, Gregory XIII made a decision that was handed down through the ages: New Year's Day would be observed on January 1. Some people were opposed to this change, and some didn't even learn that there was a change until years later, and so they continued to celebrate New Year's from March 25 to April 1. Those that celebrated the "new" January 1 New Year made fun of the people who continued to hold celebrations for those eight days. They called them "April Fools," sent them false invitations to New Year's parties, and played tricks on them.
No wonder that shoelace trick is so funny on April 1...

These links will allow you to explore the calendar and its many changes, and have some April Fool's Day fun:

Calendar Reform


Links to Calendar History and Development Pages

The Julian and the Gregorian Calendars

Conversion of Julian Date and Calendar Date

Smirk City

Knock Knock Jokes!

Visit the "Spotlight" Archives

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