Yesterday, a friend and I were talking about the foolishness of celebrating April Fools Day and we both were stumped when the conversation turned to the origins of the holiday. After a little researching online, I found out that there isn’t a definitive answer as to how the holiday started. The most accepted theory is that in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered the New Year to start on January 1st(until then it was celebrated on April 1st); thus, those that were slow to institute the change were called fools because they were behind the times. However, other theories include 1) that Roman emperor Constantine let his jester, Kugel, rein for the day, and 2) that merely the change of season/unusual weather between winter and spring caused the celebration of lighthearted tomfoolery.
Not only did I not know how this holiday came to be but I also did not know that individuals are not the only ones playing pranks on their friends: big corporations and the media take advantage of the public too. According to a yahoo news article, this phenomenon of big-scale pranks on the consuming public has a long history; for instance, BBC reported in 1957 that “Swiss farmers were harvesting spaghetti from trees.” And in 1996, Taco Bell placed “ads in major newspapers that the company had purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell.” Tami Dennis of the Los Angeles Times writes that April Fools Day is unofficially called “Don’t Trust the Media Day,” and actually disputes the theory of the Constantine origin, explaining that it was a fabricated story published by the Associate Press in 1983.
Now, I am all for the idea of letting loose and taking a break from the seriousness of social standards for a day because it serves as a healthy release, but I am not sure that the media should partake in this kind of festivity because of the influence it has over so many people. I think printing something that seems untrue may not be overtly obvious among the real news (and that’s the point of the prank, isn’t it?). Although when I take into consideration that we do live in a world that labels the best pranks as those that are the most outrageous and affect the most people, I am not as surprised that celebrating the pranks of April Fools Day extends on a much larger, ridiculous scale.
By: Rachel Blanzy
(Photo by Matt Hintsa under a Creative Commons license)