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A weekly show where we endeavor to answer one of your big questions. This week, Ruth R H asks: "How did April Fools Day come about?"

Hi, I’m Craig. My beard smells like maple syrup, and this is mental floss on YouTube! Today I’m gonna answer Ruth RH’s big question: How did April Fools’ Day come about?

Well Ruth, there are many different ancient examples of holidays and festivals similar to April Fools’ Day. These probably inspired the holiday that we celebrate today, so I’m not going to tell you about a few of those. April Fools’. I am gonna tell you. Also, April Fools’, it’s not April Fools’. Let’s do this thing!

(Intro)

Festivals like April Fools’ Day have been around for a long time, so it’s hard to say which one influenced our holiday the most. So I’m going to talk about three of its historical ancestors: Hilaria, Holi, and the Feast of Fools. I’ve never eaten fools before, but I will try it.

So the Greek festival, Ascensus, was later adopted by the ancient Romans who celebrated it on March 25th during the vernal, or Spring, equinox. They dubbed it “Hilaria”. It was in honor of the goddess, Cybele, who represented the earth. People played games and threw parties to celebrate the shift from winter to spring. Many believe Hilaria inspired April Fools’ because people used to dress up in disguise and impersonate others. Plus, it was celebrated a few days before April First.

There’s a similar ancient Hindu festival called Holi, which is still celebrated all over the world. Holi falls on different days each year, but it usually occurs in March. This is a giant party celebrating the demise of Holika, a demoness that Vishnu burned to death. The event is commemorated with a large bonfire. Young people who are responsible for the prank aspect of the festival throw colorful water or powder on people.

In medieval Europe, there was a Feast of Fools which took place around New Year’s. It involved flipping the church hierarchy so that the lowest members would take on the role of bishop and hold services. We don’t know for sure what ensued, but some experts believe that there were pranks and mocking the church leaders.

Maybe… maybe a little drinkin’. Maybe a little twerkin’. I dunno.

Others claim that this ritual has been misinterpreted and was more orderly than that. Regardless, the feast continues to pop up through the year 1600.

So there are a lot of people who think those celebrations influenced our April Fools’ Day. And how did we land on the date April First? Well, during the Middle Ages, many Europeans celebrated New Year’s during the week of March 25th through April First. The Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582, which officially made January first the start of the new year. But some continued celebrating it on April first, and they were considered April Fools. I consider them April *censored*-heads.

If you have a big question of your own you’d like answered, leave it below in the comments. Thanks for watching Mental Floss on YouTube! See you next week! April Fools, I won’t see you. You might see me though.

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