The origins of April Fool’s Day

This post is a bit off topic but I couldn’t resist.

Here are some of the theories behind the origin of April fool’s:

In France it is believed that the fooling dates back to the 16th century when Charles IX adopted the Georgian calendar. This moved New Year’s Day from the vernal equinox (25th March to 2nd April) to January 1st. Those unaware of the change continued to celebrate the New Year ’s Day in April, therefore being ‘April Fools’. This is not the only French explanation for April’s Fool Day. Some people believe that fooling custom is linked zodiacal sign moving away from Pisces. A tradition supported by the placing of a dead fish on the back of friends – nice!

In Britain the custom of being an ‘April Fool’ did not become common place until the 18th century. Whilst, in Scotland the tradition of ‘hunting the gowk’ (cuckoo) in April is much older.

Whatever the tradition for April’s Fool it has become word wide excuse for poor jokes and inappropriate hoaxes.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • Spaghetti trees: The BBC television programme Panorama ran a famous hoax in 1957, showing the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. They had claimed that the despised pest the spaghetti weevil had been eradicated. A large number of people contacted the BBC wanting to know how to cultivate their own spaghetti trees.
  • Left Handed Whoppers: In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, saying that people could get a Whopper for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side.
  • Tower of Pisa: The Dutch television news reported once in the 1950s that the Tower of Pisa had fallen. Many shocked people contacted the station.
  • Annual BMW Innovations see a new “cutting-edge invention” by BMW advertised across British newspapers every year, examples including:
  1. Warning against counterfeit BMWs: the blue and white parts of the logo were reversed
  2. The “Toot and Calm Horn” (after Tutankhamun), which calms rather than aggravates other drivers, so reducing the risk of road rage,
  3. MINI cars being used in upcoming space missions to Mars,
  4. IDS (“Insect Deflector Screen”) Technology – using elastic solutions to bounce insects off the windscreen as you drive,
  5. SHEF (“Satellite Hypersensitive Electromagnetic Foodration”) Technology, which sees the car’s GPS systems synchronise with home appliances to perfectly cook a meal for the instant you return home,
  6. Marque-Wiper – mini-wipers for each exterior “BMW” logo coming as standard on all future models,
  7. “Uninventing the wheel” to counter the “EU ban” on right-hand drive cars, and
  8. Zoom Impression Pixels (“ZIP”) to counter new “Slow Cameras”.
  • BBC Radio 4 (2005): The Today Programme announced in the news that the long-running serial The Archers had changed their theme tune to an upbeat disco style.
  • Death of a mayor: In 1998, local WAAF shock jocks Opie and Anthony reported that Boston mayor Thomas Menino had been killed in a car accident. Menino happened to be on a flight at the time, lending credence to the prank as he could not be reached. The rumor spread quickly across the city, eventually causing news stations to issue alerts denying the hoax. The pair were fired shortly thereafter, after which they became famous when their show became syndicated.
  • Free concert: Radio station 98.1 KISS in Chattanooga, Tennessee falsely announced in 2003 that rapper Eminem would be doing a free show in a discount store parking lot. Several police were needed to deal with traffic gridlock and enraged listeners who threatened to harm the DJs responsible. Both DJs were later jailed for creating a public nuisance. Also, radio station WAAF 107.3 in Boston announced that Pearl Jam was having a free concert in a fictional city in New Hampshire. A gas station in New Hampshire reported that several streams of car drivers stopped in asking for directions to the fictional town.
  • Defying gravity: In 1976, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47 a.m. that day. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience “a strange floating sensation.” Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked.
  • Shuttle landing: In 1993, a San Diego radio station fooled many listeners into believing that the space shuttle had been diverted from Edwards Air Force Base and was about to make an emergency landing at a small local airport.
  • Tsunami warning and intense storm: In 2005, Estonian Radio’s station Vikerraadio broadcasted right after 9 o’clock news a hoax in their morning program Vikerhommik. Station said that Finland had been put under a tsunami warning and wave was expected to be more than 5 meters high. They also said that Estonia was expecting heavy storm and that hurricane force winds were possible in Finland. Hosts also said that they were looking at the satellite image and it really showed very intense cyclone in Northern Europe. It was immediately proven to be hoax after a quick look at the weather maps.
  • “The Great Iceberg” On April 1, 1978 a barge appeared in Sydney Harbor towing a giant iceberg. Sydneysiders were expecting it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman (owner of Dick Smith Foods), had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently succeeded. He said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for ten cents each. These well-traveled cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to improve the flavor of any drink they cooled. Slowly the iceberg made its way into the harbor. Local radio stations provided excited blow-by-blow coverage of the scene. Only when the berg was well into the harbor was its secret revealed. It started to rain, and the firefighting foam and shaving cream that the berg was really made of washed away, uncovering the white plastic sheets beneath.
  • In 2005, TV 3 Estonia broadcasted a news story, where station claimed that thanks to a new technology, they know exactly how much are they being viewed at the moment. They also asked viewers to put a coin against TV screen if they liked the running broadcast.
  • SARS Infects Hong Kong: In 2003 during the time when Hong Kong is seriously hit by SARS, it was rumored that many people in Hong Kong had become infected with SARS and become uncontrolled, that all immigration ports would be closed to quarantine the region, and that Tung Chee Hwa, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong at that time, had resigned. Hong Kong supermarkets were immediately overwhelmed by panicked shoppers. The Hong Kong government held a press conference to deny the rumor. The rumor, which was intended as an April Fools’ prank, was started by a student by imitating the design of Ming Pao newspaper website. He was charged for this incident.
  • Thanks to wiki for this.


One Response to “The origins of April Fool’s Day”

  1. Bethany Says:

    Good night, Happy April Fool’s Day!!

    Four Jewish ladies are playing Bridge.
    Betty sighs and says, “Oy…”
    Freda nods, sighs, and says, “Oy vey!”
    Kitty says, “Oy veys meer!”
    Charlotte chimes in: “Enough talk about the children already. Let’s get back to the game.”

    Happy April Fool’s Day!

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