The Origin of April Fool’s Day
The eighteenth century provides the earliest references to it (and curiosity about it) began to appear. But at that time, the April Fool’s custom was already well established throughout northern Europe and was regarded as being of great antiquity. How had the tradition been adopted by so many different European cultures without provoking more comments in the written record?
References to April Fool’s Day can be found as early as the 1500s. However, these early references were infrequent and tended to be vague and ambiguous. Shakespeare, writing in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, made no mention of April Fool’s Day, despite being, as Charles Dickens Jr. put it, a writer who “delights in fools in general.” Many theories have been put forward about how the tradition began. Unfortunately, none of them are very compelling. So the origin of the “custom of making April Fools” remains as much a mystery to us as it was back in 1708.