The 1st of April is known across many countries as April Fool’s Day, the one day of the year when cruel and mischievous pranks can be played on the unsuspecting and gullible, without any need for guilt or sympathy. It is a tradition that is as popular amongst pranksters as it is dreaded by the naive and trusting.
But where did April Fool’s Day come from?
Like many of these ancient traditions, no one is exactly sure but there are several theories behind the day.
The most common, and possibly most plausible, is that it originated in the years following 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII adopted the Gregorian Calendar to make the year more accurate in length.
There were some people who opposed this change, and preferred to stick to their tried and trusted Julian Calendar. This meant they celebrated New Year’s Day on the 1st of April. The Gregorian followers mocked them for this, calling them ‘April Fools’.
Another theory links the origins back to the Romans and their festival of Hilaria, an idea which they had taken from the ancient Greeks. This was a celebration of the goddess Cybele, and pranks and games were commonplace throughout, with seemingly no limits on what was and wasn’t ‘too much’.
April Fool’s Day is also celebrated differently depending what country you are in. In Ireland, and many English-speaking nations like the UK and America, pranks can consist of anything from an extravagant story to a frightening trick.
In France, the day is known as Poisson d’Avril, which means “April Fish”. As the name suggests, the prank is fish-related, with the aim being to stick a picture of a fish on to your victim’s back, and then see how long it takes for them to notice. Many people believe this is the likely source of the ‘hilarious’ but cruel ‘Kick Me’ signs that are found in numerous schools around the world today.
Big companies pranking their customers
Of course April Fool’s Day pranks are not just confined to the classroom. Throughout the years, thousands of major companies have attempted to have a little fun with their customers by playing an April Fool’s Day prank.
Some of the most famous include in 1996 when Taco Bell took out a full page ad in several leading US newspapers to announce that it had purchased the Liberty Bell and were going to re-name it the Taco Liberty Bell.
In 1957, the BBC had British viewers in a panic about their dinners, when it warned that the Swiss were struggling with a shortage of the spaghetti crop, which of course was grown on trees!
Burger King hooked many unsuspecting lefties in the United States in 1998 when it launched their new ‘Left Handed Whopper’ with all the same ingredients as the normal Whopper, just rotated around by 180°. Thousands of hungry customers visited Burger King stores that day to request their custom made left-handed burger.
There have been several more ‘left-handed’ April Fool’s Day pranks since, with pizzas, keyboards, golf balls, beer glasses and sandwiches just some of the other products that have been ‘adapted’ to suit lefties.
Possibly one of the most famous April Fool’s Day pranks was run by the Irish Times newspaper in 1965. They told the Irish public that Taoiseach Seán Lemass was to ban the sales of alcohol in Ireland. This obviously led to much worry and concern in Ireland but the paper came clean the following day by publishing a picture of a grinning Lemass enjoying a pint of Guinness.
So be aware for the next 24 hours, if it sounds unusual or too good to be true, then stop and think: ‘Am I being a fool to believe this?’
With the mass media available on the internet now, companies are able to get their message to consumers almost 24 hours a day. See if you can avoid the pranks and dig out the genuine posts. Good luck.
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