On this day in 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.Others say the April Fool’s Day is left over from the idea of “renewal festivals” marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring.The festivals apparently involved those taking part donning disguises, playing tricks on friends and strangers, and causing chaos.Others mistake the celebrations for medieval Christianity’s Feast of Fools, which took place each January.Christians elected a Lord of Misrule who wore masks, dressed up and sung obscene songs. They generally behaved badly.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 to April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. These included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.
Historians have also linked April Fools’ Day to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, which was celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or
There’s also speculation that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere when Mother Nature fooled people with changing of the unpredictable weather.
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 a 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.
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 a 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.
In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes.
Newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences.
Don’t Let The Parade Pass You By
A radio station in New Orleans advertised for over a month the first ever April Fools Day parade. If you turned on the radio you could hear a play by play, float by float and band playing description. The city lined up and the only thing that came down Canal street was a man on a bike with a sign flowing behind him that read April Fools. Fools Day Parade goers became angry not seeing the irony of the city-wide joke. The radio DJ’s were required to formally apologize to the naive citizens as well as a fine with community service.
Swiss Farmers Go Italian
In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled.
Sports Illustrated Speed Freak
In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.
Luke Go to the Left Side. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich. TV stations interviewed customers who ordered their burger and most complimented Burger King for this innovative new product. Customers said for left-hand eaters the standard right-hand Whopper couldn’t pass mustard! The left-hand whopper gave a meaty performance this April 1st. Is it proper to eat a hamburger with your fingers? No, you should eat your fingers separately!
Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell
It may seem ridiculous now, but there was incredible outrage in 1996 when fast food chain Taco Bell announced it was buying the Liberty Bell. The chain took out newspaper ads saying it bought the American symbol and were renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Employees of National Park Services at the Liberty Bell and Taco Bell headquarters were the ultimate victims when they had to field calls from concerned citizens. The National Park Service had a press conference to deny the reports. Taco Bell admitted it was a prank by noon.
Sir Richard Branson buys Pluto
Virgin Group founder and British billionaire Sir Richard Branson toyed with his fans and numerous media outlets when he said he was buying Pluto and reinstating it as a planet in a 2011 Facebook post. In a news release, Branson said the purchase “could pave the way for a new age in space tourism.” Clues that it was a prank were in the post: It said Pluto was demoted from planet status in 1996. It happened in 2006. Most people got the joke, but some were still fooled, congratulating Branson and commending him for doing the right thing.
Google launches Gmail
In 2004, Google fooled everyone with a prank that wasn’t a prank when it launched Gmail April 1. Gmail was offering 1,000 megabytes of free storage when Yahoo offered 4 megabytes and Hotmail offered 2 megabytes. It sounded too good to be true by 2004 standards, but it after it rolled out a preview version, Gmail was available to all.
Alamo’s monster truck rental program
Alamo made this 2015 monster truck venture look authentic by announcing the “big news” with a YouTube video that featured an executive saying, “Our customers … want a more adventurous vacation.” Another exec said it was a “natural progression” for Bigfoot and Alamo to partner up. The Facebook announcement also had customers fooled, and the rental company played along. When one customer asked how they can get into the car, Alamo responded, “Select locations will have ladders on site and our team is happy to help you climb in before you hit the road.”