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Until the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582, New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1. As the story goes, the transition was gradual, and some people continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1. They were called fools for doing so and pranks were played on them. The tradition evolved and now, April 1 is celebrated as April Fools’ Day.

Although there are many other explanations about how this tradition began, perhaps the most amusing one might come from a 12th Century legend about Gotham, a town in Nottinghamshire, UK.

According to folklore, King John (of Robin Hood fame) could claim any property he wanted to. When he approached Gotham on April 1, the residents pretended to be lunatics, fooling him into thinking he shouldn’t usurp the town. This, a number of British people say, is how April Fools’ Day began.

Whatever the origin, April Fools’ Day is celebrated with pranks across the world. However, there is a rule regarding how to observe the day; all mischief must end by noon or the prankster will be the designated fool for the day.

This might not be of much consolation for people who may already have been tricked by having a cake smothered on their face a minute after 12, but, well, it is the rule.

Also, it is advised that jokes must be tasteful and appropriate. Telling your special someone you are ready to move on when you are not, as a joke, might leave you single rather than rolling on the floor laughing your mind out.

– Shayan Shakeel

First published in Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 1, 2012.