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Did You Know? – April Fool’s Day

Joann Wolwowicz

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Every year, Apr. 1 is the day all comedians and pranksters wait for. It is April Fools’ Day, a day where you play jokes on all of your friends and get joked on in return. But who started this day and when did it all start? Although the day, also called All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, its exact origins remain a mystery. Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. People, who were slow to get the news and failed to recognize that the start of the new year had been moved to Jan. 1, became the butt of jokes and hoaxes because they still celebrated the day during the last week of March through Apr. 1. Many of these jokes included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as a “poisson ‘avril” or April fish. This saying was meant to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.

Historians also link April Fools’ Day to ancient festivals such as Hilaria, which is celebrated in Rome at the end of March involving people dressing up in disguises. Other speculations include that the day was tied to the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature “fooled people’ with changing, unpredictable weather.

Later on, April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations, and web sites have participated in the Apr. 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences. In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour. In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.

So whatever way you chose to celebrate this fun day, do it safely and make it fun, because you never know what other people may have in store for you. HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY EVERYONE!!!

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Did You Know? – April Fool’s Day