Mark Twain said, "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year." Jokes and pranks abound on April 1, April Fools' Day.
Learn how the pranks and joking got started, fun facts about the day and get more April Fools' Day trivia about how the occasion is celebrated around the world. (And if you're more about the jokes than the history, no worries, click here to get some ideas for tricks to play on your kids.)
History of April Fools Day:
* No one is quite sure how the tradition of April Fools' Day began.
* The time around April 1, and also near the Vernal Equinox, used to mark the start of the New Year. That changed to January 1 with the switch to the Gregorian calendar by France in the 1500s, and some believe that people unaware of the change continued to celebrate on April and were deemed fools, giving rise to April Fools' Day.
* Not everyone buys the calendar theory, though. Others say that the occasion evolved from festivals of spring renewal when people hid their identities.
* It used to be that pranks had to be completed in the morning in most English-speaking countries. Pranks later in the day were frowned upon, but that custom seems to have gone by the wayside and the whole day of April 1 is considered fair game for joking.
Celebrations around the world:
* In France, kids tape paper fish to their friends' backs. As a result, April 1 in France is known as "Poisson d'Avril," which translates to "April fish."
* Hindus in India and around the world celebrate the color festival of Holi, which marks the arrival of spring and part of the celebration involves playing jokes on each other and has been linked to April Fools' Day.
* In Scotland, the event lasts two days. April 1 is Hunt-the-Gowk Day ("gowk" means "cuckoo"), and April 2 is Taily Day. Tricks are played both days, with the latter focusing on pranks aimed at people's bums, or bottoms. This is said to be where the "Kick Me" sign originated. (Anyone else want to make a comment about being the butt of the joke? No? Just me? Was afraid of that.)
* Ancient Romans celebrated the festival of Hilaria on March 25th with games and amusements, and some believe April Fools Day start there. Today Hilaria is known as Roman laughing day.
* In Iran, people play jokes on the 13th day of the Persian New Year, which falls on April 1 or 2, and that tradition dates back to 536 B.C.
* Taco Bell announced on April 1, 1996, that it was purchasing the Liberty Bell to help with the national debt and would rename it the Taco Liberty Bell.
* In 1957, the BBC reported about "spaghetti crops" in Switzerland and many requested information on growing their own spaghetti trees, completely oblivious to the fact that it was an April Fools Joke.
* Google is a big celebrator of the holiday, and in 2013 it unveiled Google Nose, a prank it called "the next scentsasion in search" because one could search aromas and sniff them, through his/her computer.
* The BBC has a few other good pranks, including this elaborate video of the newly discovered flying penguin species from April 1, 2010, and in interviewing a professor claiming to have developed smell-o-vision in 1965. (What is it with the scent-related pranks?)
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Filed under: Holiday