It’s become tradition that on the first of April to pull harmless jokes on those near and dear to us. We plot and scheme on how to play out this reality! Even the most serious among us have been known to indulge in a practical joke or two… so beware… of trusting anyone on that day!
Actually, how the custom of pranking on April 1 came about remains masked in mystery.
April Fools’ Day began in the 1500s when the Gregorian calendar took over from the Julian. New Year’s had previously been celebrated on the 1st of April. Consequently, those who forgot the change and attempted to celebrate New Year’s on the wrong date were teased as “April fools.” French peasants would unexpectedly drop in on neighbors on that day attempting to confuse them into thinking they were receiving a New Year’s call!
But that’s only one theory! Take a look at a few others:
Wherever and whenever the custom began, it’s evolved in its own lore and set of unofficial rules. Superstition has it that the pranking period ends at noon on the 1st of April and any jokes attempted after that time will call bad luck down onto the head of the perpetrator! Also, those who fail to respond with good humor to tricks played on them are said to attract bad luck themselves.
Not all superstitions about the day are negative, though – fellas fooled by a pretty girl are said to be fated to end up married to her, or at least enjoy a healthy friendship with the lass!
A Canadian Member of Parliament Sheila Copps was responsible for a particularly creative prank in 1996. On the respected news show CBO Morning, she announced that the clock in Ottawa’s Peace Tower was being switched over to digital!
I personally like this one… it dates from a Richard Dimbleby “news report” aired on 1 April 1957 on BBC’s Panorama. It opened with a line about spring coming early that year, prompting the “spaghetti harvest” in Switzerland to be early, too.
Against a video backdrop of happy peasant women harvesting spaghetti from trees, whimsical claims about foodstuff’s cultivation were made in a straight faced manner. The oddly uniform length of the spaghetti was explained as the result of years of dedicated cultivation. The starving spaghetti weevil which had wreaked havoc with harvests in years past had been conquered, said the report.
More than 250 viewers jammed the BBC switchboard after the hoax aired, most of them calling in with serious inquiries about the report… where could they go to watch the harvesting operation! Could they buy spaghetti plants themselves? (For those anxious to try their hand at home grown pasta, Panorama producer Michael Peacock offered this helpful hint: “Many British enthusiasts have had admirable results from planting a small tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce.”)
Although adults get into the spirit of April Fools’, it’s the children that seem to truly celebrate the day with wild enthusiasm. April Fools’ pranking between students and teachers is an ongoing battle of wits, with the kids favoring the timeworn standards of a tack on a chair, the “missing class” or a springy fabric snake coiled in a can of nuts of snacks. Not all teachers fight back, but the ones that do are very inventive about it! For more than 20 years, one grade school teacher in Boston comes in early on April Fools’ Day to write the day’s assignment upside down on the blackboard. When her curious students arrive, she tells them she did it by standing on the ceiling!
The style of April Fools’ pranks have changed over the y ears. Current tastes seem to run more to funny phone calls and media-driven extravaganzas. But it’s still okay to reach back to older times for inspiration. Be a traditionalist… on April 1st; send a co-worker to fetch a tube of elbow grease or 50 feet of shoreline! Have fun!
Love & God bless,
- The timing of this day seems to be related with the arrival of spring, when nature “fools” us with fickle weather, according to the Encyclopedia of Religion and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
- The Country Diary of Garden Lore, which records the goings-on in an English garden, says that April Fools’ Day “is thought to commemorate the fruitless mission of the rook (the European crow), who was sent out in search of land from Noah’s flood-encircled ark.”
- Others tie it with the Roman’s end-of-winter celebration, Hilaria, and the end of the Celtic New Year festival.