As Consider has just released our April Fool’s issue, I thought it was only appropriate to discuss some history and facts about this silly holiday that most people likely do not know about.
Although this holiday is not a legal holiday with an exact known origin, the concept of a day dedicated to harmless pranks and tricks can be traced as far back as 1582 in France with the reform of the calendar under Charles IX. The new calendar, known as the Georgian calendar, was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 and is now the internationally accepted calendar. One of the most noticeable changes in the Georgian version was that New Year’s week, which was celebrated from March 25 – April 1, was confined to one New Years day and moved to January 1. Because iPhones, Twitter and NBC News was not yet invented, news traveled very slowly and some people were not informed of the change, while others refused to recognize the alteration and continued celebrating the new year on the last day of the original week, April first. These people were known as “fools” and became targets for ridicule. They were also referred to as “April fish” because young and naïve fish are easily caught.
The tradition continued to evolve and spread around the world and was introduced to the U.S. by the 18th century. Different parts of the world have developed certain traditions for the holiday. In Scotland, for example, the day is also known as Taily Day because many of the spoofs revolve around the buttocks. The history of the “kick me” sign can also be traced to Scottish origins. In places such as New Zealand, the UK, Australia, and South Africa, the jokes only last until noon, and someone who continues to pull jokes after noon is called an “April Fool.” In India, it is celebrated on March 31 to welcome the arrival of Spring. The “Festival of Hilaria” is celebrated in Rome to commemorate the resurrection of the god, Attis.
So whether you throw flour on your friends like in Portugal, or call your victims “noodles” like in England, be sure to make this April Fool’s Day a memorable one to continue this rich history of shenanigans.
Here are the Top 5 April Fool’s pranks of all time according to Newsmax:
5) Thomas Edison Ends World Hunger: in 1878 the New York Graphic announced that Thomas Edison had invented a machine that would convert dirt into cereal and water into wine. Newspapers throughout America fell for the hoax and republished the article by the end of the day.
4) Big Ben Gets a Makeover: in 1980 the BBC reported that Big Ben was going digital in order to keep up with modern technology.
3) Lefties Need Whoppers, Too: in 1998 Burger King ran an ad in USA Today promoting a new menu addition; the “Left-Handed Whopper” developed so lefties could enjoy their whopper as much as their right-handed counterparts. The ad claimed that all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees.
2) Tacos Spell Freedom: in 1996 The Taco Bell Corporation conned the unsuspecting into believing it had purchased the Liberty Bell and would be renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Needless to say, the prank caused a nationwide outrage. Taco Bell revealed the April Fool’s joke hours later.
1) Spaghetti Crop Growing Wild: in 1957, respected BBC news show Panorama announced that Swiss farmers were experiencing a bountiful spaghetti crop due to a mild winter that decimated the spaghetti weevil. Video of farms taking spaghetti off of trees accompanied the announcement. Hoards of Brits fell for the April Fool’s prank, some even calling the BBC asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. Check out the video below:
(Photo of an MIT prank by Chris Devers under a Creative Commons license)