How did April Fools' Day start? History of pranks on April 1

It's not even April Fools' Day yet, but the pranks have already started.

Since big brands' embrace of April Fools' Day returned following the pandemic, some have tried to get the jump on the hijinks. It's the latest twist on a holiday that has its beginnings centuries ago.

It's a simple turn of the calendar, the ending of a month and the beginning of another. So how did it become a time for jokes and pranks?

How did April Fools' Day start?

While there are similar holidays in ancient Rome and Britain, the eldest – and tidiest – historical reference comes in a Flemish poem from 1561 in which a nobleman sends his servant on "fool's errands" on April 1, according to a history of the holiday written by Stephen Winick of the Library of Congress' American Folklife Center.

Roughly the same era in France, people slow to adopt the change of calendar from the last week of March to January 1 – due to the move from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, decreed in the Council of Trent – were called "April fools," and were played tricks on, according to

The Catholic Church also may have had a hand in bringing April Fools' Day to the fore earlier in history. A carnival-like “Feast of Fools,” originally held in medieval France and England on Jan. 1, was practiced but was banned by the 15th century, folklorist Jack Santino told The Washington Post. But the holiday continued for hundreds of years, said Santino, who wrote the book "All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life."

By the 19th century, April Fools' Day had become a mainstay of American culture. "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year," Mark Twain is credited with saying, according to the Encyclopedia of American Folklore.

April Fools' Day fun: Pranks caught on camera

However you pull them off, pranks can be a great way to show someone you love them. Whether it’s a military member turning their long-awaited homecoming into a memorable surprise, or an elaborate flash mob choreographed to catch a special someone off guard, the reactions are guaranteed to be great.

Humankind rounded up some of the sweetest prank videos we’ve ever covered.

Grandma screams for joy after this sweet prank

Colin Grafton hadn’t seen his grandmother in seven months while he was working onboard a cruise ship. When he gave her a call, she immediately began catching up over the phone. She had no idea he was sneaking up behind her.

Marine hides in a box to surprise little brothers

Matt Buschbacher told his sons, Jackson and Klayton, they could open one Christmas gift early. And lucky for them, the one they got to open was the huge box sitting next to the Christmas tree. Inside was not what (or who) they were expecting, but exactly what they’d been wishing for.

Identical twins switch clothes and prank dad

Rashad Abdul-Aleem hadn’t seen one of his twin sons, Musa, in eighteen months since he’d been playing professional basketball overseas. So naturally, when Musa came home, he and his brother Muhammad decided to switch places and see if they could trick their dad.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How April Fools Day started: History of pranking on April 1