Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About April Fools

Written by : Rebekah Donovan

Published On : April 01, 2016

Everything You'll Ever Need to Know About April Fools

Everyone loves April Fools. You want to prank people in the best way possible. But why do you prank on April 1st? Who started it and where did it come from?

I’ll try my best to fill you in on:

  • Where April Fools Day came from
  • Why we prank on April 1st
  • Some prank inspiration 101: the best pranks in history

Where did April Fools Come From?

Also known as All Fools’ Day this day is a pranksters paradise. Nothing is off limits, and you’re guaranteed to fool even the most suspicious folk. And though there are many theories, the origin of April Fools Day is unknown.

When you're talking about the best pranks in history - many went down ON April Fools.  But where did it come from?

Theory #1

This theory comes courtesy of Joseph Boskin, a history professor from Boston University. His idea goes back the court of Constantine where his jester’s thought they could do a better job on the throne than him.

So, he gave them a shot at it.

A jester named Kugel was allowed to reign for one day and his first job? Turning the day into one of absurdity. So it was, and so it still is (apparently).

The kicker?

This was all a joke. Boskin’s own April Fool. He released this in an Associated Press article back in 1983. It took the publishers weeks to realise they’d ended up as the butt of Boskin’s joke.

Theory #2

Many cultures have embraced days of foolishness throughout history, particularly around the start of April.

The Romans celebrated Hilaria around the 25th March each year, a festival that celebrated the ressurrection of Attis (the god of vegetation).

The Hindus celebrate Holi, a crazy colorful festival at the beginning of March to coincide with harvesting. And Judaism has Purim, in March, as a celebration of the salvation of the Jews.

There’s something in the air at this time of year. It’s a time of re-birth and celebration that lends itself to people having a little (or a lot) of fun.

april-fools-history

Theory #3

The most boring one? It used to be New Year’s Day. New year’s wasn’t on the 1st of January until 1582. So this day has always been a celebration, of sorts.

There was some resistance to this change in date, with some people outright refusing to celebrate NY on any other day than April 1st. Those who stuck to their guns were seen as a laughing stock. They’d be the butt of a lot of jokes with others sending them on “fool’s errands”.

Although there are plot holes with this version of events. Mainly that this is the account of just a handful of European countries (not the rest of the world) and England didn’t accept this change in NY date until 1752.

So Why Do We Actually Prank on April 1st?

Although we don’t actually know where April Fools day came from it is now well and truly part of Western culture. It is rooted in England at least since the 1700’s.

The Scots made April Fools a two-day bonanza, kicking off with a tradition of ‘hunting the gowk’ (gowk = cuckoo bird, or fool), where people would be sent off on fake errands.

And the second day was known as Tailie Day, with a particular focus on people’s derrieres. On this day they would pin fake tails, or ‘kick me’ signs on people.

kick-me-prank

 

The French call it Poisson d’Avril, or ‘April Fish’, where children leave pictures of fish on the backs of their friends to symbolise them being easy to catch, or gullible. They do the same in Italy, and in Portugal people throw flour over each other. Fun.

But we have really stepped it up a notch over the past century. With new technology giving you (and big companies) the chance to prank more people, more quickly and better, April Fools has been taken to a whole new level.

Pranking 101: The Best April Fools Pranks in History

Newspapers, TV, media, and the internet are all fair game when it comes to April Fools’ day pranks. Some of the biggest and best pranks in history? 

The Spaghetti Tree

Ah, the good old Swiss. Great for their banks, their chocolate and their spaghetti trees? Back in 1957 these jokers shared a BBC news story boasting their amazing harvest of spaghetti. The report was 3 minutes long and even gave viewers instructions on how to grow their own. Hilarious.

DIY Color TV

Now it’s turn for the Swedes to do their worst. As color TV wasn’t available to everyone until 1966, four years earlier the Swedes decided to trick unsuspecting TV owners into turning their lowly black and white tele into color.

The Swedish company Sveriges Television had an ‘expert’ explain, on air, how using a thin stretched layer of nylon (a.k.a ladies tights) over the front of the screen would “bend light’s wavelengths and produce a color image”.

diy-color-tv-prank

Obviously this didn’t work.

Jump with Me

The English seem to have an affinity to playing these kinds of pranks through the media, almost as much as they have for falling for them.

In 1976 astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told his radio listeners that at precisely 9.47am Pluto and Jupiter would align in such a way that Earth would have less gravity than normal. He encouraged everyone to jump at exactly the same time so they would experience temporary weightlessness.

Of course, at 9.48am the calls flew in with people sharing their stories on how they had floated. It’s safe to say they were a little disappointed to find out Moore had made it all up.

The Fastball

Here’s where the US come in, creating a hoax story about a record breaking baseball player, capable of an 165 mph fastball.

So, who was this incredible player?

Hayden Siddhartha Finch, or Sidd Finch for short. He was well-known for his yogic mastery, and being completely imaginary.

In 1985 he was the brain-child of Sports Illustrated Writer George Plimpton, who had the article published on April 1st. The Mets even got involved, having an art teacher pose for a photograph.

fastball-prank

The Taco Liberty Bell

The liberty bell. A national treasure and iconic part of American culture. But this was all put at risk in 1996 when Taco Bell announced (with a 6 page ad spread I might add) they were buying the monument, and renaming it ‘The Taco Liberty Bell’.

It’s safe to say, people weren’t happy.

Although the National Park Services’ employees felt the real brunt of it. Unaware of the prank,  they received many an angry call, and spent their day reassuring American citizens the Liberty Bell had in fact not been sold, to anyone.

Left-Handed Whopper

In 1988, Burger King decided to get their foot in the door by creating the ‘Left-Handed Whopper’.

Sharing a full page advert in USA Today the company tricked the public into believing they had solved the problem of their 1.4 million left handed customers.

What was so special about this burger?

All the condiments had been rotated 180 degrees of course. This caused a lot of confusion with their right-handed customers who were busy making sure they ordered the right burger.

Despite the fact burgers are...circles.

left-handed-whopper

Gmail Paper

In 2007 Google released their product ‘Gmail Paper’. A service whereby customers could archive all of their emails, on paper. Gmail would print them and send them to you.

Their slogan was “You Click. We stack. You Get.”

And in fact, the site is still live today.

Highchairs For Dogs

Have you ever thought, it would be nicer for my dog to sit in a highchair? Are you fed up of him jumping up onto the human chairs and trying to eat at the table?

Well in 2011 IKEA Australia solved this problem with the IKEA HUNDSTOL. A fully functional animal highchair, with a hole in the back for tails and water supply, and bowls for food and water.

Luxury for your pet.

Where Will Your Pranks Take You?

So whether you want to take a leaf out of Burger King’s book and do some pranking on a national scale, or simply want to leave your work colleague with a “kick me” sign on his back.

The April Fools possibilities are endless.

And hey, we might not know where the hell April Fools came from. But we can be grateful that it does exist. Having one day a year where it’s totally acceptable to trick the shit out of everyone is a privilege.

But remember, with great pranking power comes great responsibility.

pranking-power


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