What is April Fools' Day? – Online English Lessons

March 31, 2010 by Angela

April Fools’ Day is celebrated on the 1st April in many countries, including in the UK. It’s also known as All Fools’ Day.

April Fools’ Day is traditionally a day to trick people into believing stories that aren’t true, and for playing jokes on people in order to make them laugh or appear foolish.

What are the origins of April Fool’s Day?

There are various explanations for the origin of April Fools’ Day.

One of the most popular is that the modern tradition of April Fools’ Day may have originated in France when the Gregorian calendar, which moved New Year’s Day from March 25 to January 1, was adopted in 1582. People who continued to celebrate the end of New Year Week on April 1 were therefore called ‘April fools’ or, as the French say, poissons d’avril (‘April fish’).

Here are some famous April Fools’ Day hoaxes.

One of the most famous is the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest from 1957 when a BBC television programme announced that Swiss farmers were enjoying a very successful spaghetti crop that year. The programme even showed film of Swiss farmers picking strands of spaghetti from plants (just like in the photo at the top of this post), and many people were tricked and believed the story was genuine!

Do you have a favourite April Fools’ Day hoax? Here’s one of my favourites, from the BBC

April Fools’ Day Idioms

an April Fool – if somebody is an April Fool they are the victim of a trick played on April Fools’ Day.

play the fool – to play the fool is to deliberately behave in a playful and funny way to amuse oneself and others.

Example of use:

John is always playing the fool. I wish he would be a bit more sensible sometimes.

a fool’s errand – if you are sent on a fool’s errand you are sent on an errand that has no purpose, or that cannot be accomplished because it is a joke.

Example of use:

He sent them on a fool’s errand to buy some blue and yellow striped paint.

a fool’s paradise – happiness that is based on false hope and illusion.

Example of use:

He’s living in a fool’s paradise if he thinks she will forgive him.

fool’s gold – something worthless which foolish people mistakenly believe to be valuable. The brass-yellow mineral iron pyrites is often called fool’s gold.

nobody’s fool – to be nobody’s fool is to be very wise.

Example of use:

She is old and frail but she’s nobody’s fool.

a fool for one’s pains – to be a fool for one’s pains is to work hard without proper payment, or to help someone without your help being noticed or appreciated.

Example of use:

Mr Evans’ daughter looked after him day and night for ten years, without a word of thanks. She was a fool for her pains.

Phrasal verb: fool around

And for more advanced learners, here’s an online quiz from the Guardian: Can you spot the April Fools’ Day gags?. See if you can guess which ones are true stories, and which ones are April Fools’ Day tricks.

Are you going to play any April Fools’ Day tricks?

I’d love to hear how April Fools’ Day is celebrated in your country

Image © Robert Couse-Baker

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