Friday, April 1, 2016

April Fools' Day Around the World

Since we recently dedicated a post to translating culture and cultural phenomena, today it seems fitting to take a look at how April Fools' Day is represented around the world.

If you've never heard of this lighthearted holiday before, then you may not know that April Fools' Day is celebrated on the first day of April each year. It's unique because unlike "normal" holidays that involve getting a day off from work or school, gathering with friends and family, or taking part in religious traditions, the main purpose of the day is to play practical jokes on others by making a fool of them. Once you've decided to reveal to someone that you've been playing a prank on them, the tradition is to say "April Fool!" or " April Fools'!", depending on which English-speaking country you're in.

While there are many theories as to the origins of this holiday, nobody really knows for sure how it got started. Perhaps we humans have always just loved a good prank. In any case, the tradition is quite popular all over the world, albeit with different variations and even on other dates. Below are two international versions that we find particularly interesting.

"April Fish"

In some countries, a popular April 1 tradition involves attaching a paper fish to someone's back without being noticed as a practical joke. In France and French-speaking countries, this is known as poisson d'avril, while in Italy, it's called pesce d'aprile, both of which translate to English as "April fish".

Holy Innocents' Day

In Spanish-speaking countries, the more typical prank day is Día de los Santos Inocentes, a Catholic feast day that is celebrated each December 28. Those who fall victim to pranks on this day are known as inocentes. However, the original inocentes have a much more tragic story. The religious feast day is dedicated to remembering the Biblical account in which King Herod ordered the execution of all young male children near Bethlehem, the "innocents", who are considered to be Christian martyrs.

If you don't want to become an April fool today, make sure to keep an eye out for practical jokes and fake news stories in English-language media! In recent years, online April Fools' Day hoaxes have become especially popular, be it from big companies like Google or local newspapers. If you see any great language-related hoaxes, feel free to share them with us in the comments!