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April Fools' Day, once a time to pull a prank on both friends and enemies, has turned into a day for corporations to try and fool customers with predictable internet hoaxes. Come April 1, we can all count on an announcement about a fake new show, feature or a tinkered application.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of truly original (and elaborate) pranks that will actually surprise you.
A Modest Prank-posal
One year, satirist Jonathan Swift decided to play a very elaborate All Fools’ Day prank on John Partridge, a famous astrologer who sold bogus predictions to the public in almanacs. After Partridge predicted in his 1708 almanac that a fever would sweep London in early April, Swift published an almanac under a fake name predicting that on March 29 at 11 p.m., Partridge would die “of a raging fever.”
The public was intrigued, but Partridge was irate, and he published a rebuttal to Swift’s almanac calling its author a fraud. Then, on the night of March 29, Swift published an elegy (again, under a fake name) announcing that Partridge—a “cobbler, Starmonger and Quack”—had died, and admitted on his deathbed that he was a fraud.
News of Partridge’s death spread over the next couple of days, so that when Partridge walked down the street on April 1, people stared at him in surprise and confusion. Partridge angrily published a pamphlet saying he was alive, and Swift again publicly asserted that Partridge was dead, and claimed Partridge’s pamphlet was written by someone else. The whole escapade helped to discredit Partridge, who eventually stopped publishing almanacs.
Prankster in a Bottle
In January of 1749, London newspapers advertised that in an upcoming show, a man would squeeze his entire body into a wine bottle and then sing while inside of it. The ad promised that, “during his stay in the bottle, any Person may handle it, and see plainly that it does not exceed a common Tavern Bottle.” The ad promised the show would feature other tricks as well, including communicating with the dead.
Legend has it that the ad was the result of a bet between the Duke of Portland and the Earl of Chesterfield. Reportedly, the duke bet that he could advertise something impossible and still “find fools enough in London to fill a playhouse and pay handsomely for the privilege of being there.” And apparently, he was right. The night of the show, every seat in the house was filled, but no performer ever showed up. Realizing they had been duped, the audience rioted.
Robber Barons Rob America
Decades before the Bond villain Goldfinger plotted to nuke all of the United States’ gold at Fort Knox, a prankster dreamed up another heist that was just as ridiculous. On April 1, 1905, a German newspaper called the Berliner Tageblatt announced that thieves had dug a tunnel underneath the U.S. Federal Treasury in Washington, D.C., and stolen America’s silver and gold (this was before the U.S. built its Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky).
The Berliner Tageblatt said the heist was organized by American robber barons, whose burglars dug the tunnel over three years and made away with over $268 million; and that U.S. authorities were trying to hunt down the thieves while publicly covering up the fact that the country had been robbed. The story spread quickly through European newspapers before people realized that it was an April Fools' Day prank by Louis Viereck, a New York correspondent for the Berliner Tageblatt who published the joke article under a fake name.
Pandering to the Protest Vote
Sometimes the line between what’s a prank and what’s not isn’t always clear-cut. If an unlikely candidate runs for public office as kind of protest prank, but ends up winning, is it still a prank? Here’s one example: in 1959, students in São Paulo, Brazil, who were tired of the city’s overflowing sewers and inflated prices launched a campaign to elect a rhinoceros to the city council—and won.
The rhino’s name was Cacareco (Portuguese for “rubbish”), and she was already a popular figure in São Paulo when the students launched her campaign. The four-year-old had moved to the city from Rio de Janeiro when São Paulo’s zoo opened, and was scheduled to return to Rio soon. When the students looked at the 540 candidates vying for São Paulo’s 45 city council seats and feared that none of them would address the city’s problems, they decided to make a point by asking people to vote for the popular rhino instead.
Cacareco won a city council seat with a whopping 100,000 votes, far more than any other candidate (the closest runner-up got about 10,000). Of course, she didn’t end up serving on the city council because the election board disqualified her. But she remains one of the most famous protest votes in Brazilian history.
The Great Spaghetti Harvest
One of the most famous April Fools' Day pranks of all time is the BBC’s famous “spaghetti harvest” segment. On April 1, 1957, a news broadcaster told his British audience that Ticino, a Swiss region near the Italian border, had had “an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop” that year. The camera cut to footage of people picking spaghetti off of trees and bushes, then sitting down at a table to eat some of their “real, home-grown spaghetti.”
At the time, spaghetti wasn’t necessarily a dish that British people would’ve known about. That doesn’t mean that no one realized the segment was a prank—some viewers were upset the BBC had aired a fictional segment during a serious news program. But other viewers reportedly asked about how they could grow their own spaghetti at home.
Rooting for the Home Team
Caltech has a long history of pranking other schools. One of its most famous pranks happened during the 1961 Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena, where Caltech is located.
The game was between the University of Washington’s Huskies and the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers. During the game, Washington cheerleaders handed out colored cards to the Huskies’ side and told them that if they held the cards up at halftime, the cards would spell “Huskies.” But when halftime came and the fans held the cards up, they ended up spelling “Caltech.” It was so weird and unexpected (Caltech wasn’t even playing in the game!) that the band on the field stopped mid-song.
It later came out that fourteen Caltech students had orchestrated the prank by breaking into the cheerleaders’ hotel rooms and switching the instruction sheets for the card stunt.
Naked Came the Stranger
One of the best-selling erotic books in American history was actually written as a joke. No, it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey (though that did famously start as Twilight fan fiction)—it’s a 1969 parody called Naked Came the Stranger. The book’s author was listed as “Penelope Ashe,” but the real authors were a group of journalists at Newsday, a Long Island newspaper.
The project’s ringleader was Mike McGrady, a Newsday journalist frustrated with the popular romance and erotic novelists he’d interviewed. “I saw the writing that was being accepted and it seemed absurd,” he told the Associated Press. So McGrady rounded up about 25 journalists and asked each to contribute a ridiculous, over-the-top chapter to an erotic parody novel. He and columnist Harvey Aronson then patched these chapters together into a story about a Long Island housewife who suspects her husband is unfaithful and starts cheating on him.
The hardcover sales earned it a number four spot on the The New York Times’ bestseller list. Because it was exposed as a parody soon after publication, readers were likely in on the joke and bought it for the laughs (after one intimate encounter, a character says, “I’d forgotten there was more to life than mowing a lawn”). The next year, McGrady published a book about the experience called Stranger Than Naked, or How to Write Dirty Books for Fun & Profit.
The Original Masked Singer
Stranger Than Naked wasn’t the only prank journalists played in 1969. That year, Rolling Stone music critic Greil Marcus published a piece spoofing the trend of big name rock stars forming “supergroups.” One of the most popular supergroups in the ‘60s was Cream: its guitarist Eric Clapton was already famous for playing with the Yardbirds, while drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce were already known for playing in the Graham Bond Organisation.
Marcus penned a gushing review to a nonexistent bootleg album by the “Masked Marauders,” a secret supergroup he said was made up of Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. The fake review garnered real interest in the album, and Marcus ended up writing and recording the songs he’d made up; then Warner Brothers bought the songs and released the album.
“It was just an attempt to say, ‘This is stupid, and let’s make it even stupider,’” Marcus told MSNBC years later. But it was also a little prophetic. Two decades after the “Masked Marauders” review, Bob Dylan and George Harrison actually did join a supergroup with Tom Petty called the Traveling Wilburys.
Virgin Airlines Pivots to UFOs
Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, has a well-documented love of April Fools' Day. But in 1989, his annual prank came a day early, on March 31.
That evening, residents outside of London spotted a flying saucer that appeared to land in a nearby field in Surrey. Police officers went to the field to investigate the supposed UFO, and were probably surprised when they actually found one. As they approached the flying saucer, a door opened and a silver-clad figure walked out. The cops promptly ran away.
Little did they know, Branson was hiding out in the UFO behind his silver-clad companion, whose name was Don Cameron. The two of them had taken off in the flying saucer—which was actually a hot-air balloon—and planned to land in Hyde Park on April 1 as a prank. However, changing winds forced them to land a little earlier in Surrey.
READ MORE: Nine More Famous Hoaxes
The History of April Fools Day
Isn’t it amazing? People all around the world dedicate one specific day of the year just for fun, laughter, and silly pranks. But where did it all come from? What is the history of April Fools Day?
If you’re curious, you probably know that kids are even more so than you! Sharing the story of April Fools Day is a great way to make them even more aware about history and human culture without them even being aware of it! And, that’s not all! The topic is surrounded by mystery because there’s no clear answer as to where the concept of April Fools Day came from. Is it possible that the entire concept of April Fools’ Day is just a prank? According to some theories, it might be!
Whatever the true story is, going back through history, you’ll be amazed by some of the most incredible events related to this April Fools Day. So, without further ado, let’s unravel the mystery!
For a while, April Fool’s Day videos were released annually by Westjet. Remember overhead bin “sleeper cabins”?, “cargo kids”? the “Flyre Music Festival” at 35,000 feet? or the year they filled the cabins with helium to make planes lighter and save fuel?
In 1996, fast-food chain Taco Bell announced it had purchased the famed U.S. Liberty Bell, which it claimed it was renaming the “Taco Liberty Bell” and relocating from Philadelphia to its headquarters in California. The company claimed publicity from the hoax increased sales by $1 million over a 24-hour period.
Google is another chronic hoaxer. It once insisted that it was launching a broadband service using cables that would run through the sewer system. In fact, its reputation for pranking was such that when the company launched its Gmail service on April 1, 2004, few believed them.
On April 1, 2009, YouTube turned some of its videos upside down. A page on “Tips for Viewing the New Layout” suggested users hang their monitors upside down from the ceiling.
Kinda makes you re-think the “kick me” sign you thought would be hilarious taped to your co-worker’s back, doesn’t it?
April Fools&rsquo tradition popularized
On April 1, 1700, English pranksters begin popularizing the annual tradition of April Fools&rsquo Day by playing practical jokes on each other.
Although the day, also called All Fools&rsquo Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery.
Some historians speculate that April Fools&rsquo Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.
These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as poisson d&rsquoavril (April fish), said to symbolize a young, &ldquoeasily hooked&rdquo fish and a gullible person.
April Fools&rsquo Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with &ldquohunting the gowk,&rdquo in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people&rsquos derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or &ldquokick me&rdquo signs on them.
Jain: Where did April Fools’ come from?
Many of you likely have family or friends who enjoyed the humorous misery of others on yesterday’s April Fools’ Day. You, yourself, may have even been the deceptive prankster or the unfortunate prankee. As a prankster, you may have conducted the classic salt and sugar switch leaving your prankee having a bitter dessert or an uncharacteristically sweet entree. Most holidays, I simply follow the communal festivities without any idea of the origins and significance of the special occasion. This year, however, out of genuine curiosity, I reviewed the history of April Fools’ Day, and will share the origin of this infamous holiday and some of the most cunningly outrageous pranks performed throughout time.
The precise origin of April Fools’ is a divisive topic linked to many individual events. However, many historians theorize the holiday dates back to the late 16th century when France switched from the Julian calendar to the modern Gregorian calendar.
In the Julian calendar, New Year’s Day fell on the Spring Equinox—around April 1—but in the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Day was designated as January 1. The people who were slow in receiving the news, or who failed to realize that New Year’s Day had moved to another date, continued to celebrate New Year’s at the end of March to the first of April. These unknowing people became the target of jokes and were called “April Fools.”
On another note, April Fools’ is also closely tied to an ancient Roman festival called Hilaria (Latin for joyful) which was celebrated at the end of March and was inspired by the Egyptian legend of Isis, Osiris and Seth. On this day, participants dressed up in disguises and mocked fellow citizens and law enforcers.
Also, since April Fools’ Day is near the first day of spring, it appoints the time when mother nature fools the people with the sudden change in the weather.
But regardless of its origin, April Fools’ remains a holiday abundant with frightening unpredictability and meticulously crafted jokes. This is a time that allows people’s imaginations to run wild and have them act upon their eccentric fantasies. Among the numerous hoaxes enacted through the centuries, some were notably ingenious and duped a great number of people.
I’ve included some of the most outrageous pranks throughout history below. From these April Fools’ jokes, one thing is for sure: Humans love a good laugh. And nothing is more amusing than successfully tricking others and observing their unpredictable reactions. But, especially for those stressed-out college students, I think April Fools’ Day is a needed reminder to enjoy life, to have a few laughs and to not take life too seriously.
This prank was performed on April 1, 1957, and is by far the most notorious and indelible of pranks. In the popular British news show, Panorama , they broadcasted a three-minute segment about a bountiful spaghetti harvest in a southern Swiss town called Ticino. The segment claimed that it was a prodigious year for spaghetti crops because of the milder winters and the disappearance of the “Spaghetti weevil.” The segment panned to swiss peasants picking delicate strands of spaghetti from an enormous tree and placing it in a woven basket. The freshly picked spaghetti was then prepared in the classic Italian dish. This seemingly absurd story generated an astounding response at the time, with many calling the BBC wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti tree.
If you took high school geometry, you may have encountered the iconic and irrational number, pi. Pi was a notoriously infinite number that was hard to work with and thus, in 1998, Mark Boslough disseminated the alleged news that lawmakers in Alabama decided to pass a law that redefined pi to simply be equal to 3. This intriguing news was widely known and believed by the public.
On April 1, 1996, a full-page ad appeared in six major American newspapers (The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News and USA Today) about Taco Bell purchasing America’s greatest treasure, the Liberty Bell, to help reduce the country’s debt. The bell would then be renamed the Taco Liberty Bell. This alarming news generated a huge uproar after which many worried citizens called Taco Bell’s headquarters and the National Park Service in Philadelphia to find out if the bell was actually sold. To assuage the uproar, the Philadelphia branch of the National Park Service convened to assure the public that the bell had not been sold.
The BBC reported in 2015 that Big Ben would be changed to a digital readout where the hands on the dial would be switched for the digital numerical representation. This April Fools’ hoax backfired on the BBC as few people thought it was funny and many were rather angry and shocked to hear about the (fictitious) renovation of the precious monument.
Sweden’s most notable April Fools’ joke occurred in 1962. During this era, all TVs broadcasted black and white imagery and the only channel available in Sweden was SVT (Sveriges Television). On April Fool’s day, the channel’s technical expert, Kjell Stensson described a way to instantly see colored images from the black and white TV sets. Stensson claimed that wrapping the TV screen with a fine mesh screen, achievable with nylon stockings, would bend the light in a way that enabled images to seem colored. By referencing technical ideas, like the prismatic nature of light and the “double-slit interference,” he was able to formulate a plausible argument that left Swedish people scrambling their house for nylon stockings.
In 1989, a Seattle comedy show went on the air and said the city’s space needle had fallen. It even had believable and realistic imagery to substantiate their claim. This news was of course a fabrication, which was little comfort to the 700 panicked callers who were alarmed by the story.
Like their various doodles, Google is iconic for composing peculiar and outrageous April Fool hoaxes. They are so infamous for their April Fools’ jokes, that their announcement of Gmail was initially believed to be just another one of their jokes. But one particularly outlandish April Fool’s joke they devised was the Google Gulp. In 2005, Google announced that they would be rolling out a “smart drink” called Google Gulp. This beverage was touted to invigorate and sharpen the cerebral cortex through electrolytic neurotransmitter smart-drug stimulants. These stimulants claimed to increase one’s web-browsing efficiency and were available in laughably-named flavors like Beta-Carroty and Glutamate Grape.
In this April Fools’ Joke, an article in PC Computing Magazine described a bill going through Congress that would make it illegal to browse the internet while drunk. The FBI would use the bill to tap the phone lines of anyone who was abusing alcohol. To some readers, the dishonesty of this article might have been deceptively obvious as the bill was numbered 040194 (aka 04/01/94) and the contact person was named Lirpa Sloof (April Fools’ spelled backward). But this article still fooled many people and elicited so many numerous angry phone calls to Congress that one senator released an official denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the bill.
10 Famous April Fool’s Day Pranks of All Time
April Fool’s day is just around the corner, and as usual, everyone is busy with inventing new pranks and spoofs. Each year on April Fool’s day, we renew the promise of not to falling prey of someone else’s prank. But we never question the ingenuity of the human mind as each year a prank better than the earlier ones arrive, leaving us all in splits. The earliest known record of April Fool’s day prank is of April 1, 1968, when people were sent to wash Lions being washed! To inspire ideas for your next prank we have brought 10 famous April Fool’s Day pranks of all time.
1. When the local residents of Sitka, Alaska woke up on April 1, 1974, they found their nearby dormant volcano, Mount Edgecumbe, billowing out black smoke. Later, a Coast Guard pilot went over the crater to investigate. Then, he found 70 tires burning and the words “APRIL FOOL” spray painted into the snow.
Image Source: hoaxes.org
April 1, 1974, was a bright, clear morning in Sitka, Alaska. But the residents of the town woke up with a huge shock when they saw smoke coming out off a dormant volcano. Mount Edgecumbe, a volcano which had been dormant for about 400 years, looked like it was preparing to blow.
Concerned residents called the local authorities, and soon, a chopper was sent out to investigate. When the Coast Guard pilot approached the mountain, he peered down into the crater. He couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked closely. Stacked in the cone of the volcano, burning with a greasy flame, was a huge pile of old tires. Also, spray-painted in the snow beside the tires, in 50-foot-high black letters, were the words “APRIL FOOL.”
The fake eruption prank was staged by a 50-year-old local prankster Oliver “Porky” Bickar. Before staging the prank, he had notified the FAA and local police. But he forgot to notify the Coast Guard due to which the truth came out soon enough. Nevertheless, the prank succeeded beyond Porky’s wildest dreams and ran in papers around the world. (source)
2. On April Fool’s Day, 1976, the BBC announced that a special alignment of the planets would temporarily decrease gravity on Earth. Their broadcast was so convincing that their phone lines were flooded with callers who claimed they felt the effects.
Image Source: xdind.com
In 1976, BBC Radio 2 broadcasted a hoax that the gravity of Earth would decrease for a short time on 1 April. The prank was invented by the English astronomer Patrick Moore. He stated that due to the astronomical event i.e. conjugation of Jupiter and Pluto at 9:47 am, people will be able to feel the reduction in gravity on the Earth for a brief time. Also, he explained that the powerful combination of the gravitation of the two planets will cause this effect. He managed to convince the listeners that if they would jump into the air at that exact moment, they would feel a floating sensation.
The prank turned out to be a huge success. Soon after 9:47 am, BBC received hundreds of calls from people claiming that they felt the effect of decreased gravity. One woman who called even stated that she and eleven of her friends were sitting and had been “wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room”.(source)
3. For April Fool’s Day in 1998, Burger King introduced a Whopper designed especially for lefties on a full-page ad in USA Today. According to the ad, the new burger would contain the same ingredients as the original but rotated 180°. Thousands of customers swarmed into their restaurants requesting the “lefty” Whopper.
Image sources: astromarketing.ca, www.themarketingblog.co.uk
In 1998, a day before April Fool’s day, Burger King announced the launch of a new burger designed specially for lefties. This special burger was named “the left-handed Whopper”, which was made available from April 1. The ad mentioned that the hamburger would still consist of lettuce, onions, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup, and four-ounce flame-grilled hamburger patty. But the sandwich had been redesigned to fit more comfortably in the left hand.
Burger King announced that the new burger is redesigned by rotating the condiments 180 degrees. So, the weight of the sandwich is redistributed, and the bulk of them skew to the left. This arrangement will cause ‘spills’ for the left-handed burger lovers. The next day i.e. on 1st April, thousands of customers ordered the left-handed whopper without even realizing that a burger is circular in shape, and a 180-degree rotation would not change a single thing.(1,2)
4. On April Fool’s Day in 1989, billionaire Richard Branson designed a UFO-shaped hot air balloon and hired a dwarf in an E.T. costume. Thus, the dwarf would come out and scare whoever was near it when it landed.
Image source: www.virgin.com
Branson, a billionaire entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, is well-known for his elaborate pranks and publicity stunts. But his 1989 stunt with a UFO-shaped hot air balloon is the most talked and known April Fool’s prank. To pull off this prank, he got a custom made hot air balloon in the shape of a UFO with strobe lights over it.
Then, in the early morning of April 1 at 4 am, Richard Branson took off in the hot air balloon. The UFO-shaped balloon looked just like an actual UFO. Moreover, it had strategically placed strobe lights which blinked every 10 seconds. As the sun began to rise, the UFO was seen over London’s M25 highway. Morning commuters were stunned, cars pulled over, police forces mobilized, and the army was alerted. Branson had planned to land in Hyde Park, but due to the poor weather conditions, he was forced to land in Surrey Field.
Branson had another trick up his sleeve, which he revealed after landing the hot air balloon. After landing, the UFO door opened, and dry ice billowed out and a dwarf wearing an ET costume emerged down the platform. By this time, the Surrey Field was surrounded by a police force. When Branson revealed his prank the officers were unamused and initially threatened to arrest him. However, later, they decided against any formal action. (source)
5. Hot Wheels launched its new product “Wonder woman’s invisible jet” as an April fool’s prank. The product was actually nothing more than an empty Hot Wheels packet. However, there was so much demand for it that they made it into a ‘real’ product.
Image source: www.flickr.com
As an April Fool’s day prank, Mattel’s social media team posted a prank post on Facebook announcing it would start selling the “Wonder woman’s invisible jet”. Their artists mocked up a box and posted the picture along with the post. Most people got the joke, but those who didn’t ask where they could purchase the item. That’s when Mattel decided to sell a limited-edition collectible. The Hot Wheels packaging of Wonder Woman’s invisible jet shows that the invisible jet is nestled between the cardboard and plastic molding. Moreover, Mattel’s designer had weights hidden inside the packaging to make it feel as if it contains a real toy. The exclusive item was sold at $5.(source)
Have you ever wondered why April Fool’ Day is even a thing or why it got its own day?
Have you ever wondered why April Fool’ Day is even a thing or why it got its own day??
“On April 1, 1700, English pranksters begin popularizing the annual tradition of April Fools’ Day by playing practical jokes on each other.
Although the day, also called All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery.
Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.
These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as poisson d’avril (April fish), said to symbolize a young, “easily hooked” fish and a gullible person.
April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.”
April Fools' Day gags, tricks date back hundreds of years -- no joke!
April 1 (UPI) -- Elaborate pranks and other hoaxes abound on Monday as people around the world celebrate April Fools' Day -- a tradition born in France more than 400 years ago.
The holiday, also known as All Fools' Day, has uncertain origins -- most commonly traced back to a calendar change in 16th century France, and is commonly marked with jokes and attempts to mislead.
In recent years some websites have used the occasion to print outrageous and often satirical false news stories and major brands have announced gag products and services -- only to follow them up with "April fools!"
How did it start?
The most common explanation of how April Fools Day came to be involves France's transition from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582. When France made the change, the start of the new year moved to January 1 after having been previously celebrated from the last week of March through April 1. People who failed to adapt to the change immediately became known as "April fools" and became the subjects of jokes and pranks.
The targets of such pranks were referred to as "poisson d'avril" or "April fish" and often had paper fish placed on their backs to symbolize a young, easily caught, gullible fish.
Some historians have also linked the origins to various other events throughout world history. The Hilaria festival in ancient Rome involved participants dressing in disguises at the end of March, and the Dutch victory over Spanish Duke Alvarez de Toledo at Brielle in the Netherlands on April 1, 1572, was commemorated with the proverb "On the first of April, Alva lost his glasses."
Other explanations associate the origin with the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, saying it commemorates Mother Nature fooling people with unpredictable weather.
France, Belgium and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada continue traditions of referring to the Holiday as "April Fish" and pranking people with paper fish.
In the United States, festivities last all day and often involve attempting to fool unsuspecting people with absurd and unbelievable stories through fake news items and social media.
Britain and English-speaking portions of Canada share similar customs, but only take part in pranks on the morning of April 1 -- but jokes are no longer acceptable past noon. Similar limits also exist in Nordic countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, where media outlets traditionally post only a single false news story.
In Ireland, the holiday involves passing around an "important letter" that reads "send the fool further," to various people throughout the day.
The holiday became a two-day event when it spread to Scotland in the 18th century. The first day begins with a tradition known as "hunting the gowk" -- a word for cuckoo bird -- in which people are sent on false errands.
The second day, known as Tailie Day, involves pranks centered around pinning fake tails or "kick me" signs to people's backsides.
April Fools' Day jokes have evolved in contemporary times. In the centuries since the tradition's conception, pranks have escalated to a global scale, spurred by the growing reach of new media.
The British Broadcasting Company fooled viewers in 1957 by reporting farmers in Switzerland set a record spaghetti crop -- including even footage of them harvesting noodles from trees. More than 50 years later, in 2008, the BBC published a video clip of flying penguins for a bogus series on the "Miracles of Evolution."
In 1985, Sports Illustrated published a prank story about a rookie baseball pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball nearly 170 mph. The story featured a number of bizarre details about the fictional ace, including that he carried a french horn at all times and wore one hiking boot while pitching.
As part of a 1996 advertising campaign, Taco Bell took out full-page newspaper ads saying it purchased the the Liberty Bell and would rename it the "Taco Liberty Bell." The company also disclosed -- truthfully -- that it had also made a $50,000 donation to help preserve the historical landmark.
Tech giant Google has been at the forefront of more recent April Fools' Day pranks, often implementing games and other gag features. It announced in 2013 its video site YouTube would no longer accept new videos -- joking the site would choose the best viral home video on the Internet, and would return online in 2023.
Three years later, the company added a phony (but functional) "Mic Drop" feature to Gmail that allowed users to close an email thread by sending an animated image of a Minion -- the small, yellow, animated characters that first appeared in the Despicable Me films -- dropping a microphone, modern slang for, "I'm done."
Google ultimately wound up removing the feature early in the day and issuing an apology after a number Gmail users who'd accidentally clicked the button found their email threads closed prematurely.
In 2017, Google allowed users to play the classic video game Ms. Pac-Man on Google Maps. This year, Google's April Fools' gag is a game called "Sssnakes on a map."
"Google Maps shows you how to get around on foot, car, train and bicycle, and now, you can ssslither to your destination too," it reads. "Starting today, you can play a twist on the snake game in different locations across the world -- including Cairo, London, San Francisco, São Paulo, Sydney and Tokyo -- right from Google Maps. To start playing, simply open the Google Maps app, tap on the menu icon on the top left corner, then select 'Play Snake' to get your daily dose of 90s nostalgia (boy bands, fanny packs and slap bracelets not included)."
The History of April Fools’ Day
Many people assume the history of April Fools’ Day originated from France, but we don’t know this for sure. In fact, there are a few origins of April Fools’ Day that circulate within society. Although we see this holiday as a purely frivolous day, it wasn’t always just about fooling people. It was a bit deeper than that, and one of the rumors of origin did indeed come from France.
Some of the historical facts and rumors:
1. The French Calendar
One story or rumor comes from 1582 when France changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The significance of this comes from the fact that France originally celebrated its New Year on April 1 st on the Julian calendar, but when the Gregorian calendar came into use, this changed the New Year to January 1 st , as we celebrate the holiday today.
Some people didn’t get the news as quickly as others and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1 st . These individuals became known as “April fools” because to others they were jokes. Everyone who did know of the transition played pranks on them and made fun of their ignorance of the change.
2. A published poem in 1561
One belief that completely changes the idea of French origin comes from a poem written by the Flemish writer, Eduard De. Dene. This writer wrote a poem about a man who sent his servant on fake errands all day long on April 1 st .
If indeed, this was the first incident considered an April Fools’ joke, it contradicts the origin concerning the French calendar. Supposedly, the French calendar was changed after this poem was written. This is one reason why the history of April Fools’ Day is such a mystery.
3. Vernal Equinox
Some believe that April Fools’ Day started because of the Vernal Equinox, the start of spring. People of the Northern Hemisphere believed that nature was playing tricks on us by using its unusual weather.
As spring is the transformation of cold into mild weather, the weather itself is often unpredictable, almost as if it’s playing tricks on us. Just when you think it’s getting warmer, springtime throws in a couple of cool days to remind us that winter isn’t quite completely gone yet.
4. Roman Hilaria
There is also the belief that April Fools’ Day originated in Ancient Rome. Those who were members of the Cult of Cybele celebrated Hilaria by mocking the magistrates and dressing up in costumes. This celebration of sorts in March was apparently inspired by Egyptian beliefs in Isis, Seth, and Osiris.
5. April Fools in Scotland
There was also a tradition for April Fools’ Day in Scotland, as it spread throughout Britain. The Scots celebrated the first of April by hunting “the gowk”. It was a two-day event, with the “the gowk hunt” being on the first day.
The “gowk” was a fake bird, also known as a cuckoo bird, which is a symbol for a fool. People were told to hunt down this bird as a joke. The second day was called “Tallie day” where individuals pinned signs, such as “kick me” on other’s derrieres. It seems that as the ideas of April Fools’ spread, the jokes continued to become even more imaginative.
6. Modern April Fools’ Day
Society has gone much farther to celebrate April Fools’ day in modern times. Television stations and radio broadcasts fooled many people with fake announcements to scare and amaze us. All throughout history into modern times, this holiday was observed almost as much or more than other holidays. It was just celebrated in different ways.
Notable April Fools’ Day Pranks
There are a few pranks that should be remembered for their outrageous claims. These April Fools’ Day jokes go far and above simple comedy. Some of the jokes had people scratching their heads in confusion and wondering if the world was going crazy. Let’s take a look at a few notable pranks.
Apparently, many people were convinced there was a spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. This is hilarious because we should all know that pasta itself is not grown in any garden. Then again, some people think cotton is man-made, so go figure.
“Fooles Holy day” represented April 1 st when everyone was supposed to gather at the Tower Ditch for the “lion washing ceremony”. This became a popular prank, especially for out of towners. Can you imagine a special day for watching the bathing of such wild beasts?
In the year 1996, Taco Bell, a fast-food restaurant, announces that it has purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. This prank is just silly, but it is amusing.
BBC releases clips of flying penguins and publishes a story called, “Miracles of Evolution”. The story states that Penguins are migrating from the Arctic and moving to the jungles of South America. Believe it or not, some people fall for this prank.
April Fools’ Continues
Although we really don’t know the set date in which this routine came to be, we still enjoy pranking people. It is also a day we celebrate around the globe with colorful antics and amusing jokes. So, today, try to see the origin of April Fools’ Day as a beginning to poking fun at your friends. After all, we need a little hilarity in today’s crisis.
Go out and play that joke, have some fun, and remember to be kind.
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A nod and a link: April Fools' Day pranks abound in the news
(CNN) -- If you happen to browse upon a news story that's too odd to be true Wednesday, hold your outrage and check the calendar.
A Lebanese newspaper ran a caricature last year of two opposition leaders hugging in light of April Fools' Day.
It's April Fools' Day -- when media outlets around the world take a break from the serious business of delivering news and play fast and furious with the facts.
No one quite knows when the practice began, but any journalist will point to what is undoubtedly the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled: A 1957 BBC report that said, thanks to a mild winter and the elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop.
The segment was accompanied by pictures of farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees -- and prompted hundreds of viewers to call in, wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.
While not as elaborate, the pranks that media outlets harvested this year have been quite rich:
The Guardian in London ran a story Wednesday announcing that, after 188 years as a print publication, it will become the first newspaper to deliver news exclusively via Twitter.
Twitter, a micro-blogging site, allows users to post updates that are 140 characters long. In keeping with the limitation, the newspaper said it had undertaken a mammoth project to retool the newspaper's entire archive.
For example, Charles Lindbergh's 1927 flight from New York to Paris, France, was condensed to: "OMG first successful transatlantic air flight wow, pretty cool! Boring day otherwise . sigh."
The news isn't always black and white. The Taipei Times, one of three English-language dailies in Taiwan, fooled many readers with a report that two pandas donated by China to the Taipei Zoo were, in fact, brown forest bears dyed black and white.
To render a whiff of authenticity to the story, editors made a reference to China's tainted-milk scandal that sickened 300,000 people last year.
But the story contained enough outrageous lines to clue in readers.
Among them, a quote from a souvenir stand operator who worried the panda deception would affect sales of her "stuffed panda toys, panda T-shirts, panda pens and notepads, remote-controlled pandas on wheels, caps with panda ears on top, panda fans, panda flashlights, panda mugs, panda eyeglass cases, panda face masks, panda slippers, panda wallet and panda purses."
Sometimes, of course, the pranks backfire. In Australia, the Herald Sun newspaper drew hundreds of angry comments Wednesday after a story on its Web site said a Chinese construction firm wanted to buy naming rights to the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Many readers did not realize the story was a hoax -- despite a quote from a spokeswoman named April Fulton. iReport.com: Share your best April Fools' office pranks and jokes
Geoffrey Davies, the head of the journalism department at London's University of Westminster, said such pranks do not particularly affect the credibility of a news organization.
"They are done in a way that you know it's a joke," he said. "In the Guardian story, for example, the clue is in the name of the journalist [Rio Palof] -- which is an anagram for April Fool. People look out for them really, and therefore, you kind of open the paper trying to spot the spoof story."
Of course, news outlets aren't the only ones who hoodwink readers on April 1.
The town of Rotorua, a popular tourist stop in New Zealand, said a rotten egg smell that permeates the town is such an aphrodisiac that Playboy founder Hugh Hefner wants to build a mansion there.
Microsoft Corp. said it is releasing a new Xbox 360 video game, "Alpine Legend," which will do for fans of yodeling what "Guitar Hero" did for rock music. And car manufacturer BMW announced in ads in British newspapers that it had developed "Magnetic Tow Technology."
"BMW Magnetic Tow Technology is an ingenious new system that locks on to the car in front via an enhanced magnetic beam," the ad said. "Once your BMW is attached you are free to release your foot from the accelerator and turn off your engine."
Steve Price, features editor of the Taipei Times, said such hoaxes are not only good for a laugh but serve a purpose.
"It highlights an important aspect of media that readers and viewers should keep a critical mind when they read stories or watch TV," he said. "I think that is especially true with the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of blogging."
The origins of pulling pranks on April Fools' Day is unclear. Some believe it dates back to the time when the Gregorian calendar was first adopted, changing the beginning of the year to January 1 from April 1. Those who still held on to the Julian calendar were referred to as "April Fools."
Traditionally, the pranks are pulled before noon on this day. But a wildly successful prank this year was conceived and executed much earlier.
Millions of Web users fell for a video that claimed to be the first flying five-star hotel in a converted Soviet-era helicopter.
The 37-second clip, which was posted online Thursday, was an elaborate computer-generated hoax by the airport hotel chain Yotel.
If you were one of the many who fell for the prank, hold your disappointment.