March is winding down and April is just around the corner, which means you should probably start working on the perfect prank for April Fools' Day. The favorite holiday of jokesters everywhere is celebrated on the first of the month— but why is April Fools' Day on April 1? Well, there's no one definitive answer (perhaps because people were too busy devising their tricks to devote time to historical records), but there are a couple of different theories.
According to the History Channel's website, the English began popularizing the tradition of playing pranks on April Fools' Day back in 1700. It spread to the rest of Britain throughout the rest of that century, becoming especially beloved in Scotland. The Scots made it a two-day event, and started using the ever-popular "Kick Me" signs on people's backsides. Who knew that the class clowns in your junior high school sticking Post-it notes on suspecting victims were actually taking part in a centuries old tradition?
The Brits didn't think up the holiday on their own, however. According to Snopes, the concept of April Fools' Day may date back to the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. With the Julian calendar, the new year began on March 25. But because that coincided with Holy Week, celebrations were delayed until April 1. When the switch was made to the Gregorian calendar, the new year began on January 1. People who were slow to pick up on the change could be tricked into thinking that April 1 was still the right day for a new year's bash— earning them the nickname April Fools.
Going back even further in time, there's also some speculation that the ancient Romans helped inspire April Fools' Day according to the Museum of Hoaxes website. Romans held multiple festivals around this time to celebrate the arrival of spring. There was Hilaria, in which people were free to dress up in disguises, and Veneralia, in which women snuck into men's bathhouses to perform special ceremonies.
Whether you love or hate the tradition, you'll have to keep your peeled for pranks come April 1. According to CNN, brands like Google and news outlets like the BBC and NPR are getting in on the April Fools' action. If you take everything you see, hear, and read that day with a grain of salt, you should be fine.