Beware my dear reader, because today marks an ages old celebration that involves tricks, pranks, hoaxes and jokes. Every April 1 as a child, I awoke to some prank concocted by my mother. She got to us early before we had a chance to become fully cognizant and it reminded us to remain suspicious for the rest of the day.
But where did this tradition come from?
A lot of sources credit Charles IX of France when he changed the calendar from Julian to Gregorian which changed New Year’s from April 1 to January 1 in the year 1582. The thinking was that the slow advancement of information in those days left people doubting the new change and resulted in fake celebrations and invitations to non-existing parties. Those gullible enough to believe it were called ‘poisson d’avril’ french for April fish. This signified an easily caught fish and people often hooked paper cut outs of fish on the backs of the unsuspecting. (Sounds a little like the modern day ‘kick me’ signs!)
But alas, further research shows the Romans having the celebration of ‘Hilaria’ around April 1. They also had a fish analogy and their word for it was ‘pesce d’aprile’, or again, April Fish.
Even the stoic British have a history of celebrating a ‘fool’s day’ and possibly date it back further than 1392, when Geoff Chaucer made reference to it in ‘Canterbury Tales’.
In Scotland the tradition is called ‘hunt-the-gowk-day’ with gowk meaning cuckoo or fool.
New Zealand only allows the foolishness to last until noon. The UK also only plays pranks in the morning presses, making the afternoon news believable.
And consider this for a moment, the oldest tradition I could find for April Fool’s Day belongs to Iran. Known as ‘Sizdah Bedar’, they play jokes on each other on the thirteen day of the Persian New Year which falls on either the first or second of April. It dates back to 536 BC!
Some historically famous April Fool-igans include official television stations, newspapers, radio stations, White House Staffers, internet sites and game shows.
Some of my favorites:
2010 – ESPN announces Tiger Woods changing his name to avoid the drama over personal difficulties.
2009 – Expedia announces Flights to Mars. Wikipedia announced a ‘Museum of Bad Art’. NPR does a spoof of a body controlling device known as ‘i-Bod’.
2004 – Italian television station reports that NASA discovered crude oil on Mars.
1996 – Taco Bell announced that it had purchased the Liberty Bell and was changing its name to ‘Taco Liberty Bell’.
1980 – BBC reported that the famous clock tower Big Ben was going digital.
1957 – BBC reported the demise of the spaghetti weevil and went on to show the harvesting of noodles from trees causing a large number of callers to inquire about how to obtain their own spaghetti trees. And you thought those stiff-upper-lip Brits didn’t have a sense of humor!
And my favorite crafty one goes to :
1950 – Dutch television news reported that the Tower of Pisa had fallen.
My warning to you all, be careful as you move about in the world today. Don’t believe everything you read or hear and check your backs regularly for the ‘little fishes’. No joke!
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