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April Fools' Day: 5 spots to act the fool abroad

By Jennings Brown, Special to CNN
updated 8:39 AM EDT, Sun April 1, 2012
Revelers take part in the battle of Els Enfarinats, which is thick with flour and eggs, in the town of Ibi, Spain.
Revelers take part in the battle of Els Enfarinats, which is thick with flour and eggs, in the town of Ibi, Spain.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In France and Scotland, pranksters often attach things to a victim's back
  • Spaniards celebrate their version of April Fools' on December 28
  • Humorina is a festival dedicated to humor in Odessa, Ukraine

(CNN) -- There is no better way to ring in the spring season than with a free pass to the carefree days of childhood when no one could chastise you for a well-executed prank -- as long as it brought a smile to both parties.

You may choose to privately celebrate April Fools' Day by covering your office toilet seat in saran wrap or telling your mom you're engaged to a death metal drummer. Or you may celebrate publicly, if you live in one of the American cities that host festivities.

In San Francisco, revelers can dress up in outlandish outfits and participate in the Saint Stupid's Day parade. New Yorkers can run the "Backwards Mile" through Central Park or attend the April Fools' Parade, which has been announced for the last 26 years, but never taken place.

But if you want to take your pranking abroad, there are other countries that do tomfoolery even better than America. Here's a destination guide for the ultimate purveyor of mischief.

France

Many sources claim April Fools' began in France after King Charles IX decreed that all citizens must begin their calendar on January 1, moving the start of the year back by three months. Therefore, those who celebrated around the beginning of April were deemed foolish.

Considering there are earlier mentions of the holiday, this origin story is a little fishy. But the French celebration is even fishier. The day itself is called Poisson d'Avril, as pranksters attempt to attach paper poisson (fish) to unsuspecting fools' backs.

Perhaps the most enjoyable tradition of this holiday is all the fish-shaped treats and pastries that fill bakeries and chocolate shops.

Scotland

If you're a true gowk hunter, then you should head to Scotland, as their April Fools' celebrations last for two days. Hunt the Gowk Day is celebrated on April 1. "Gowk" is Scottish for "cuckold" or "fool," and the goal of the day is to hunt them out and make them aware of their foolishness. The traditional prank of this day revolves around making someone go on a fool's errand.

And while day one is dedicated to making someone the butt of a joke, day two is all about making a joke out of someone's bum. April 2 is Taily Day, when you're not only allowed, but encouraged, to focus your attention on the posteriors of others. The infamous "kick me" sign most likely originated as an early Taily Day joke.

Spain

The Spaniards celebrate their version of April Fools' on December 28, so you have plenty of time to plan. El día de los Santos Inocentes is a Catholic holiday dedicated to the remembrance of the "Holy Innocents" who were killed when King Herod ordered the death of baby boys in Bethlehem after hearing that he was going to lose his throne to the newborn King of the Jews, according to the Gospel of Matthew.

Yes, pranks to commemorate the mass slaughter of infants.

The fool of each prank is considered an inocente, and after the prank is made, the prankster shouts the phrase to let him know he's been had.

If you really want to make the most of the day, celebrate in the town of Ibi, Alicante, which hosts the Els Enfarinats festival that has taken place for two centuries. Participants partake in a mock coup d'etat that culminates with one of the world's largest food fights when everyone takes to the streets with flour and eggs. Mock soldiers run around in the bedlam, collecting "taxes" that go to charity.

A Hindu devotee splashes water as he celebrates Holi by throwing colored powder and water.
A Hindu devotee splashes water as he celebrates Holi by throwing colored powder and water.

India

India gets the award for most vibrant custom, with their Hindu holiday, Holi. Also known as the Festival of Colors, this celebration takes place on the last full moon day of winter, someday in February or March. The next Holi takes place on March 27, 2013.

All across the country, participants take to the streets, playing pranks and throwing colorful, scented powder at each other. In this bacchanalia that gives you an idea of what it would look like if a Skittles factory exploded, the social structure and norms aren't as black-and-white as they are throughout the rest of the year. No one is expected to be polite when they're expecting to be blasted in the face with a handful of rainbow dust. But along with chaos, this tradition induces a national sense of exhilaration truly fitting for the beginning of spring.

The holiday is exceptionally more exuberant in the northern India. Some of the best cities to celebrate are Mathura and Vrindavan; Delhi; and Shantiniketan, West Bengal.

Ukraine

Although the nation itself doesn't show great enthusiasm for April Fools' Day, the port city of Odessa more than makes up for it with Humorina -- a festival of humor.

On April 1, the city erupts with parades, concerts, plays, art, fireworks, costumed locals and pranks galore. Americans might go out of their way to confuse a friend or coworker, but since Humorina was created in 1973, Odessans have proven themselves as some of the most creative and dedicated pranksters in the world.

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