1

I have come across descriptions of an April Fools' Day tradition in Britain, Ireland, Poland and Scandinavia. But it is not true to say it is western-wide because it is hardly known for example in Spain.

In what cultures is the tradition observed?

2

Of all places Malta is the best! Many other countries "celebrate" April Fool's Day, but none like Malta!

The story of “April Fools' Day” is one of a certain curiosity indeed! It is known to the French as a “Poisson d'Avril”. To understand how this tradition started, one has to understand two things: the change of the calendar in 1582; and how the people of the 17th century saw and did things. Here are a number of points to help see how the foolish day started:

  • Each country was free to choose the first day of any month for its own specific New Year.

  • The French used Easter Sunday as their start of the calendar.

  • Most countries used the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, as the start of their civic calendar.

  • On December 20, 1564, King Charles IX of France decreed that January 1 would be the start of the New Year.

  • Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar in 1582, suppressing 10 days out of the calendar year and making New Year's Day on January 1. Other countries were not obliged to accept this reform.

  • England maintained New Year's Day of March 25 until 1752.

When King Charles of France moved the first day of the year to January 1, it was not immediately implemented everywhere. Not all towns and villages knew about this decree, and some simply did not believe it. The French of Charles’ reform years would make fun of these countries’ people with various jokes. Thus, the “poisson d'Avril” was created. Remember that the fish is a symbol of Lent and is found on Catholic calendars everywhere. When Pope Gregory's reform came into effect, it was immediately accepted in France. As a result, the English were still in Lent when France was celebrating Easter. The “Poisson d'Avril” slowly became April Fools' Day, with the English as the recipients of the practical jokes for not accepting the reform. April 1 is the octave day of the Annunciation (England's historical New Year's Day). In the past, major feasts were celebrated for eight days. This is still common in many areas.

April Fool’s Day is a traditional holiday in Malta, a country that is 98% Catholic.

Here is an example of Malta's April Fools' Day:

Malta Today’s own April Fool’s – an old chestnut perhaps – was the removal of Freedom Day, a Labour Party favourite, from the list of national holidays. 31 March 1979 was the day the lease of the British military forces ran out on the Malta base, five years after Malta became a sovereign republic, and 15 years after it was proclaimed independent (but with the Queen of England as head of state). We said Joseph Muscat would also get rid of Victory Day (8 September), and just to quell fears, we used the URL: ‘Calm down it's only April Fools!’. - April Fool’s: what the media is ‘reporting’ today

Here is a little more:

Although April Fool’s Day falls on Easter Sunday this year, there’s no reason not to tickle your funny bone in whatever month you’re visiting Malta or Gozo.

Malta has a thriving comedy scene, with several Maltese stand-up comedians who regularly perform on the island as well as internationally. Add to that the countless comedy shows that are produced throughout the year in different venues, and you’ll have no shortage of laughs whilst in Malta.

Here’s where to catch the best comedy events on offer during your stay on the Maltese islands.

The Eden Comedy Club, St Julian’s

Just a short walk from Radisson Blu Resort in St Julian’s is the Eden Cinema Complex, home to the Eden Comedy Club. Inside the cinema’s multi-purpose theatre, the Club regularly hosts large scale live stand-up comedy nights, featuring top-notch acts from the UK and international comedy circuit, including headlining names such as Jimmy Carr and Omid Djalili. - Where to Watch Comedy in Malta in Honour of April Fool’s Day

  • Many thanks for this great answer, and +1, but the para after your bullet points would be more coherent if you explained "Thus, the 'poisson d'Avril' was created" and "As a result, the English were still in Lent when France was celebrating Easter". So it started as a response to desynchronisation of year numbers in 1564 (I'd figured it might be to do with a week's holiday at New Year at the end of March, and it seems that the French were saying "you still think it's New Year, haha") and then 18 years later was influenced by desynchronisation of Easter. Any more about Malta? – user1618 Apr 2 '18 at 8:45
  • Your answer contains much more information relevant to the question than the Wikipedia article, but what do you say to their assertion that "In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril"? That was before the 1564 reform. – user1618 Apr 2 '18 at 8:48

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