There are many reported origins of this humorous day, and all of them are equally amusing. Along with its historic beginnings, there are many famous tricks that will forever be cemented in history. Many news organizations, restaurants, and even entire cities use this day to have a little fun with the public. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane on some of the best April Fools’ Day pranks and facts, and we promise this is no trick!
- While not a religious holiday, this famous day dates back to 1582, a Pope, and a calendar mistake. Previously, the Julian calendar was in place which had April 1 as its New Year’s Day. Pope Gregory XIII decreed the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, named after himself, of course. This changed New Year’s Day to January 1. All those who missed the message and still celebrated on April 1 were henceforth and forever known as April fools.
- Another explanation of the day was published in the Associated Press in 1983. A professor of history at Boston University explained that one of the Roman emperor Constantine’s court jester claimed he could rule the empire better than he could. Because of this accusation, Constantine let the jester rule for a day. While ruling the jester decreed that the day forever call for absurdity – and thus, it became an annual event. The only problem with this theory? It was entirely made up as a joke against the AP.
- Another possible origin is it forming from ancient festivals, one of these being Hilaria. This festival was celebrated in Rome at the end of March. To celebrate people dressed in disguises and proceeded to “fool” people.
- The vernal equinox could also be the founder. People would say that the Mother Nature was fooling us with the first day of spring because the weather would then be unpredictable.
- Scotland really embraced April Fools’ Day, turning it into a 2 day event. The first day of the event was known as “hunting the gowk” (a gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, which is a symbol for fool). This day would be spent sending people on a fake errands, playing pranks, and tricking people into believing things that were not true. The second day was known as “Tailie Day,” which involved playing pranks on people’s backsides. This is where the infamous “kick me” sign was created.
- In France, this day is call “Poisson d’Avril,” which means April Fish. The children of France will take cut out pictures of fish and stick them to the back of their classmates. When the prank is discovered the prankee cries, “Poisson d’Avril!” – in a similar way in which we cry, “April Fools!”
Now to some of the infamous April Fools’ Day pranks, through the ages:
- In 1957, the BBC presented a rather unheard of, but happy report. The segment described the unusually plentiful spaghetti crop thanks to their balmy winter and the long awaited eradication of the spaghetti weevil. They went so far as to stage footage of works picking spaghetti off the trees. Foolishly enough, people believed this!
- In 1905, a German newspaper thought it would be funny to print a story about the US Treasury being robbed. The story claimed that all of the silver and gold had been stolen by greedy American millionaires in a highly coordinated heist. Unfortunately, people believed this too, and other newspapers across Europe reprinted it without thinking to check the facts.
- In 1984, the MIT Technology Review published an article saying they were planning to “retrobreed” the wooly mammoth and bring it back to life. Once again, the story was believed and other papers published the article before realizing it was a prank.
- 1996 brought one of the first fast food pranks. That year, Taco Bell announced that it had purchased the Liberty Bell and would be renaming it “the Taco Liberty Bell.” People in Philadelphia got very upset and confused workers at the real Liberty Bell were overwhelmed with angry calls.
- Another fast food chain, in 1998, decided to get in on the fun. Burger King announced that they were now selling a “Left-Handed Whopper.” Tons of customers, presumably lefties, flooded the restaurants requesting the fake sandwich.
- In 1986, the annual tradition of the New York City April Fools’ Day parade was started. The first year started as a prank, but soon became a beloved tradition. A press release is put out every year advertising the parade which never occurs.
- Sometimes it’s best to take news reports seriously, whether it be April Fools’ Day or not. In 1945, a tsunami was reported to be heading towards a pacific island. Several people lost their lives because they believed the weather report to be a prank.
What’s the best April Fools’ Day prank you’ve ever pulled? What’s the worst prank you’ve ever fallen for? We want to know… and Happy April Fools’ Day!