The tradition, celebrated in many different cultures, has been around for several centuries, but its origins remain a mystery.
Some say it dates back to 1582 when the Council of Trent required the French to switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.
Because news traveled so slowly in those days, many people continued to celebrate the New Year from the last week of March to April 1 and became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. Many found a paper fish placed on their backs to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person or “poisson d’avril” (April fish).
Another theory links April Fools’ Day to the ancient festival Hilaria. A feast celebrated in Rome at the end of March where people dressed up in disguises.
Historians speculate the holiday is tied to the vernal equinox or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere when Mother Nature’s unpredictable weather fooled people.
Check this site for other detailed theories.
Whatever the origin, by the 18th century, April Fools’ Day celebrations began to spread throughout Britain. A traditional Scottish festivities involve a two-day event, beginning with hunting the gowk (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) where people are sent on phony errands. The next day, Tailie Day, fake tails or “kick me” signs are pinned on people’s derrieres.
These days, newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites participate in the tomfoolery of April 1 with the reporting of outrageous fictional claims to fool their audiences.
One of the most famous is the 1957 BBC report of Swiss farmers’ record spaghetti crop. Footage of workers harvesting noodles was shown.
Sports Illustrated tricked its 1985 readers with a made-up article about Sidd Finch, a rookie pitcher, who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.
Fast-food restaurant chain Taco Bell claimed to have purchased Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell in 1996 and planned to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell.
Burger King advertised a new “Left-Handed Whopper,” in 1998. All the condiments rotated by 180 degrees “thereby redistributing the weight of the sandwich so that the bulk of them skew to the left” and reducing spills for lefties. Scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.
In 2013, Twitter announced a free “Twttr” version that would not support vowels and only allow tweets with consonants. “Twitter” would be a $5 per month service supporting any letter. The letter Y would always be free to everyone.
How’d your April Fools’ Day go? Were you the brunt of any jokes, pranks, or hoaxes this year?