April Fool’s Ancient Origins and the Tradition in Greece

April Fool's Day
The Joker. Public Domain

The custom of setting aside a day, April Fool’s Day, for playing harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor has been relatively common in the world historically.

There are three scenarios regarding the origins of April Fool’s Day.

Ancient Origins of April Fool’s Day

The day is similar to the Ancient Roman festival Hilaria observed on March 25. The festival was observed to honor the Greek goddess, Cybele. On Hilaria, the Romans indulged themselves with all kinds of games and amusements, most importantly masquerades, during which individuals could disguise themselves and pretend to be anyone they chose.

Another version says the tradition originated from the Celts. Since the Celts were mighty fishermen, the tradition of telling lies on April 1st is deeply linked to fishing.

The fishing season began on April 1st, but during that period there were not many fish. This, therefore, led the fishermen to lie about the amount of fish they caught. Throughout  time, the tradition remained and expanded to other countries which adopted their own versions.

A third version regarding the origins of April Fool’s Day holds that 16th century France is the “mother” of the tradition. According to this particular version, until 1564, the French celebrated New Year’s on April 1st. However, in 1564, King Charles IX ordered that New Year’s be celebrated on January 1st.

The people of France were divided into two camps with one side opposing the change and continuing to celebrate the new year on April 1st and the other side being accepting of the change but continuing to exchange presents for the new year on April 1st as a joke.

April Fool’s Day traditions in Greece

With Greece being part of Europe, April Fool’s traditions were adopted throughout the country as well, though traditions were adapted to suit Greek tastes.

The basic idea was that Greeks started telling small, innocent lies on April 1st, thinking that whoever managed to trick the “victim,” would be lucky for the rest of the year.

In other parts, it is believed that the person who plays the trick will have bountiful crops. In addition, rain on April Fool’s Day in some parts of Greece is reminiscent of healing powers. Others claim that whoever digs on April 1st essentially digs their own grave.

Greeks relish playing pranks on this day. They believe that a successful joke brings the prankster well-being.

Pranks in Greece

Noteworthy was the Greek government’s prank in 1995 when the Greek Ministry of Culture announced the discovery of the tomb of revered philosophers during Athens Metro excavations.

Agence France-Presse believed the report and ran the story but was later forced to retract it.

In 2021, Greek Reporter fooled several journalists in Greece who were desperately searching for more information on Tom Hanks’ new Greek restaurant chain – the Souvlaki Hanx.

The first location will open in The Grove Shopping Center in Los Angeles, with immediate plans to open more restaurants across the U.S., Greek Reporter said at the time.

It added that some of the chain’s signature dishes would also include references to Hanks’ long and celebrated acting career on screen. These dishes would include: Private Ryan’s Gyro, Cast Away Fries with feta and oregano, and The Terminal — a gyro platter for two with a variety of Greek meats and sauces.

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