APRIL 2002
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Fooling Around The Globe

By Joanna Sufin

In some countries people believe that April Fool's Day, just as St. Valentine's day, is derived from American culture. Although the origins of this day are not certain and there are many speculations as to where the practice of hoaxing people started, one thing is sure - April Fool's Day was not born of American tradition but was brought here by immigrants from Europe.

The most widely spread tale of the origins of April Fool's Day goes back to King Charles IX of France who in mid 16th century adopted the Gregorian Calendar and officially moved the New Year's celebrations from April to January. Those who refused to abide by the new calendar and still observed April 1 were called fools.

However, the fact that in some countries today April Fool's day is called "Prima Aprilis" indicates that the roots of this tradition may go back further in time than 1564. Some believe that April Fools' Day originated in ancient Rome where the Christians in the Roman empire ridiculed Pagans who would not let go of their beliefs and observed the first day of spring.

"Prima Aprilis" for example is very popular in Poland. Many children come to school that day disguised as cartoon characters and often times they are allowed to teach classes. Some wait the entire year to humorously avenge themselves on a harsh grading teacher. But even the slick kids are often "victims" of April Fool's Day jokes made by adults.

Michal Michniadowicz, a customer service representative at a credit union who is originally from Poland recalls some of the Prima Aprilis memories. As a child he would go to the movies with his grandfather and watch cartoons every Sunday.

"At one time when I was a little boy, my mom woke me up saying that dwarves came over our house and hid themselves under the kitchen sink. As a child I believed in all the fairy tales that I saw in the movies, so I got up all excited and I ran to the kitchen. I was very disappointed when I found out there were no dwarves under the sink."

April Fool's Day is also popular among children in France, who stick small posters of fish onto the backs of their peers and shout "Poisson d'Avril" (April Fish) whenever someone discovers the trick.

April 1 is also celebrated in some countries in the Caribbean, including Jamaica and Guyana where people make fun of each other saying not very realistic yet fairly believable stories. Eslin Abrams, a college student from Guyana who immigrated to the United States five years ago likes April Fool's Day because it's a day of laughter. What she doesn't like about this day is that it happens to be her birthday.

"People often joke and say they can tell when my birthday is by the way I act," says Abrams. "And I always ask my mom 'couldn't you hold me for one more day?'"

Lakshami Kavunsal, a Hindu woman who sells handcrafted gifts at Grand Central loves clever hoaxes even when she is the victim.

"I remember a few years ago my daughter called me from India and said that she just got married," said Kavunsal. "I was shocked. My heart almost stopped, because in India parents are the ones who arrange marriages."

In Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru April Fool's Day is celebrated in a similar way as in the United States but on a different date. Originally the day was supposed to commemorate the slaughter of children by King Herod after the birth of Jesus, but over the time the holiday became less serious and took on a much lighter tone

"We call it Dia de los Inocentes which means Day of the Innocent. People make jokes. And they have a lot of fun," says Angie Gaviria originally from Colombia. "But I don't like that day too much. I am not a funny person."

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