The really funny thing about April Fool's Day, or All Fool's Day, is that we don't know for sure just how the custom of fooling people began. Some say it is related to an old Roman festival that was celebrated on March 25. The day may have to do with the fact that the vernal equinox comes on March 21 and was a new year for many people. Playing jokes may even be taken as a sign of joy at the end of winter and the coming of spring.

April 1 has been a day of fooling for hundreds of years. It's not an official holiday like Thanksgiving, but it is celebrated every year in the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and France.No one is sure exactly when April fooling began. Some people believe it started in Roman times, well over 2,000 years ago. Some scholars believe April Fool's Day began in France.

King Charles IX decided to use the new Gregorian calendar, which changed the first day of the year from April 1 to Jan. 1. Not everyone approved of the change, and some were unaware of it for quite some time. As a result, the first of April became a time of poking fun and giving silly gifts.

Sometime in the 1700s, the English took up the habit of April-fooling one another. This had no connection with the French calendar change, because the English did not change their calendar until much later. For the English, April Fool's Day became known as a time for sending the less wise on fool's errands.

Solemn Englishmen sent children on searches for hen's teeth, pigeon's milk and other such impossible tasks. Today's pranksters delight in sending the unwary in search of left-handed wrenches and sky hooks.

The fool's errand, or the impossible search, seems to have long been a part of this special day. For hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, the people of India celebrated the Feast of Juli on March 31, and unwary people found themselves going on ridiculous errands.

The Scots delighted in sending a letter by an unsuspecting messenger they called a gowk or cuckoo-bird. Each person who got the letter read it, then sent the April gowk on down the road to another person, which was exactly what the letter said to do.

Naturally, when the European settlers came to the New World, they brought April Fool's Day with them. The variety of pranks played over the years is unbelievable.

The whole purpose of April Fool's Day is to play jokes with such fun that the victim laughs, too. Lies and mean jokes are not appropriate. Merry April fooling has been going on for many centuries. It is still popular today, and people will probably enjoy it for years to come.

Many years from now people will probably fall for the same tricks that we are falling for now. And many of these are the same tricks people fell for hundreds of years ago. Could this possibly be a celebration of spring?