All-Fools-Day a name given to the first day of April, on account of an absurd custom, which prevails" in various parts of the world, of ridiculing people and imposing on them in a variety of ways. Numerous explanations of the origin of this custom have been attempted. Among them are the following:
(1.) In France the person imposed upon is called poisson d'Avril, "an April fish," which is thus explained. It is contended that the word poisson, through the ignorance of the people, is corrupted from passion, and through the lapse of time the original idea was almost entirely lost. The intention, it is contended, is to commemorate the mocking of our Lord by the Jews. As the passion of Christ took place about this time of the year, and as the Jews sent him backwards and forwards, from one officer to another, to mock and torment him, so we send about from one place to another such persons as we think proper subjects for our ridicule (see Bellingen, Etymology of French Proverbs, 1656; and Gentlemen's Magazine for July, 1783).
(2.) Another attempt to explain it has been made by referring to the fact that the year formerly began in Britain on March 25, which was supposed to be the day of the incarnation of our Lord. So April 1, being the octave of March 25, and the close of the festival both of the Annunciation and the New Year, became a day of extraordinary mirth and festivity.
(3.) It has also been explained as having a Jewish origin. It is said to refer to the mistake of Noah in sending the dove out of the ark before the water. had abated on the first day of the Hebrew month, answering to our month of April; and, to perpetuate this deliverance, it was thought proper that whoever forgot so remarkable an event should be sent on some fruitless errand similar to the ineffectual message upon which the bird was sent by the patriarch.
(4.) It has been shown that the' practice of making April fools on the first day of that month has been an immemorial custom among the Hindus at a celebrated festival held about the same period in India; called the Huli festival (see Pearce, Asiatic Researches, vol. 2).
(5.) Maurice, in his Indian Antiquities, says that the custom, prevailing both in England and in India, had its origin in the ancient practice of celebrating with festival rites the vernal equinox, when the new year of Persia anciently began.