No one knows where the tradition of “April Fools” came from. It’s origin has been wrapped in obscurity for a long time. Some claim that the custom has something to do with the Vernal Equinox and the coming of Spring. And that may be true, for legend has it that Demeter, hearing the echo of her daughter’s screams as she was carried away to the underworld by Pluto, went searching for the echo, and did indeed go on a fool’s errand. The Romans celebrated the feast of Cerealia (Ceres was the Roman name for Demeter) in early April.
In France, since at least the time of Charles IX and his disliked calendar reform (1564), the April Fool is called poisson d’avril – an April fish. Is it because the Sun is leaving Pisces? Or is it because April fish are easily caught?
April fooling in England became very popular in the eighteenth century., In Scotland it is still called ‘Hunting the Gowk (cuckoo)’, where the cuckoo is sent on one fruitless errand after another carrying a sealed note. It says:
‘Don’t you laugh and don’t you smile, Hunt the gowk another mile.’
Does anybody still fall for this? Like all good traditions, April Fools Day was duly brought to the American colonies where it has persisted chiefly among schoolboys who delight in calling the Zoo and inquiring for Mr. Fish and Mr. Lamb. Or often dropping by the local hardware store and asking for such items as “skyhooks” and “striped paint”, or taping notes like “April Fool”, or “Kick Me” to a teacher’s back.
The first of April, some do say, Is set apart for All Fools Day, But why the people call it so, Nor I, nor they themselves, do know. Poor Robin’s Almanac, 1760