The what of April Fools’ Day is pretty clear: Friday will be a time for pranks—for better or for worse. But the why is a mystery.
Though many holidays have cloudy origins, the history of April Fools’ Day is particularly blurry, as there are several competing claims for the invention. Some see the holiday’s sources in a storybook, while others consider it an evolution of the general rejoicing of springtime.
One possible precedent is in the Greco-Roman festival called Hilaria, which was celebrated on March 25. The festival honored Cybele, an ancient Greek Mother of Gods, and its celebrations included parades, masquerades and jokes to celebrate the first day after the vernal equinox. Read more