Several countries around the world celebrate April fool's day on April 1st. On this day people play practical jokes on others. Canada, New Zealand, the UK, Austrailia, Cyprus, and Africa only play jokes until noon. They have a saying for people who play pranks after noon which goes, "April Fool's day past and gone, You're the fool for making one." In other countries such as the United States, Europe, Germany, France, and Italy the jokes last all day. French and Italians stick paper fish on people's backs and yell "April Fish!" The old 'kick me' note on the back can be traced back to Scotland.
The earliest record of April Fool's day is from 1392 and found in Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales', where the main character is tricked by a fox.
A famous poem from 1790 found in the poor Robin's almanac goes:
The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fool's Day,
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.
There are several quotes that can be associated with April Fool's Day. One is an old chinese proverb that states "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Another quote by Jack Handey goes "I hope life isn't a big joke, because I don't get it." Abraham Lincoln stated that "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." Will Rogers said that "The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected". And Max Eastman stated that "It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humor."
There are two theories about April Fool's day. The first is that in 1562, Pope Gregory XIII changed the calendar, which put April Fool's day on January 1st. Word traveled slowly in those days, and people continued to celebrate on April 1st. Another idea is that Charles IX brought in the Gregorian calendar in 1564, which changed the date of the new year. In the eighteenth century the tradition was passed to England and Scotland, and later to the U.S. colonies.
A professor of Boston university, Joseph Boskin, stated that during the time of Constantine, a group of jesters told the emperor they could do a better job. So Constantine let a jester be king for a day, and the custom became a yearly event. In 1983, several newspapers printed the story. But turns out the joke was on them. Mr. Boskin made the whole story up as a prank.
Famous pranks from the past include the Swiss spaghetti harvest. This happened in 1957 when a TV show aired that due to mild weather farmers were enjoying a huge spaghetti crop. They completed the prank with footage of workers pulling strands of spaghetti off of trees. Many calls were received by people asking how to grow their own spaghetti tree, which they were informed to place a sprig of spaghetti in a can of tomato sauce.
In 1989 London faked a UFO landing as a practical joke. People were frightened and called the police. Turned out to be a hot air balloon built by Richard Branson. He had intended to land the balloon in Hyde park on April first, but was blown off course and landed a day early. When he exited the balloon in a silver suit, the police took off running.
In 1933 a newspaper announced that the state capitol building of Wisconsin had suffered damages from explosions and had toppled over. It was stated that the explosions came from 'many weeks of verbose debate in the Senate and Assembly chambers'. Many readers became upset and did not think the prank was funny at all.
In 1980 a magazine titled 'Soldier' wrote an article discussing how the bearskin helmets worn by guards at Buckingham Palace keep growing and were in need of a trim. A photograph of a guardsmen having his helmet trimmed in a barber shop was attached with the article.
A movie was released in 1986 titled 'April Fool's Day'. The story is about a group of college students staying at a friend's mansion who meet untimely deaths. Another movie with the same title was released in 2008, and is also a horror movie about an April Fool's day prank.
For readers who like to pull off pranks, here are a few harmless ideas:
Place a piece of bubble wrap under the lid of the toilet seat. The next person to sit down will be surprised with a loud pop.
Crack a walnut along the middle and remove its contents. Place a note inside, or fill with corn starch or flour. Superglue the shell together.
Switch the signs for the men and women's restrooms.
Superglue coins to the sidewalk or parking lot.
Write a message on the roll of toilet paper in the restroom.
Put a fake tattoo on the victim while they are sleeping.
If your kitchen sink has a sprayer, place a rubber band around the handle so that the next person to turn on the water gets sprayed.
Change a co-workers google language setting to something like klingon or icelandic, or the language on a friend's cell phone.
Dip the tips of a friends cigarettes in orajel.
Take something from a coworkers office and leave a ransom note.
Hard boil a carton of eggs and glue them back in the carton. Place them back in the refrigerator.
Switch the refrigerator handle to the side that doesn't open.
Today April Fool's day is still celebrated with pranks and jokes. Sometimes people are sent on errands, looking for things that aren't there, or try to get others to believe something that isn't true. This holiday can be fun as long as people don't take it too far and keep it humorous. Pranks that are mean spirited or harmful to others is not what this day is about.