Fool’s Gold

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    In the midst of all the crazy pranks and practical jokes, have you ever wondered how this crazy holiday got started? Well, you might be surprised to find out.

    April Fool’s Day got started as a way to have a good time — and just in time too! Placed at the time of year when everyone is at the peak of cabin fever and ready to get out, we can release some pent-up energy on a prank on someone else.

    Even though each country has a different explanation about how April Fool’s Day began, all of them are similar because they all encourage pranking. Each country plays jokes in different ways, but every joke ends up in a laugh:


    If you can make it until lunch, you’re safe! Since its considered bad luck to play a practical joke on someone in the afternoon, all pranks must be done in the morning. Fools in England are called “gobs” or “gobby” and victims of pranks are known as “noodles.”

    One common practice of prank playing was from the French, who would hook a paper fish onto someone’s back. This practice was most popular among school-aged children.

    The Huli Festival commemorates the arrival of spring and is also celebrated on March 25. People play practical jokes on each other and smear and throw colored powder and water on each other to celebrate the changing of the season.


    On the Sunday and Monday before Lent, people throw flour on one another. Did someone say food fight?


    Rome’s version of the holiday, the Festival of Hilaria, is held on March 25. This day was created to celebrate the resurrection of the god Attis and is referred to as “Roman Laughing Day.” Attis was the god of life, death and rebirth. From his body parts grew blossoming trees full of fruit. Ancient Romans believed celebrating his resurrection honored spring and brought a fruitful harvest.


    In Scotland, April Fool’s Day is dedicated to spoofs related to the posterier region, and thereby known as “Taily Day.” Instead of being called “April fish,” victims of Scottish pranks and jokes are known as April “Gowk,” another name for a cuckoo bird. As people would joke about the buttocks, signs would be placed on people’s back and this was the start of the “Kick Me” sign.

    Over time jokes have evolved. In the 18th century the American colonies began the tradition of prank playing we know now. In one, school children pointed at their friends’ feet and said, “Your shoelaces are untied!” Even teachers would join in on the fun, telling children “Look! A flock of geese!”

    No matter the country, April Fool’s jokes range from more simple tricks to the most elaborate hoaxes. Sometimes, even the media gets involved in trying to fool its viewers.

    One of the most remembered April 1st hoaxes was the infamous spaghetti harvest in Switzerland. On April 1, 1957, news reporter Richard Dimbleby showed a peasant woman harvesting spaghetti from trees. He claimed that the harvesters had finally foiled the “ravenous spaghetti weevil” that had wreaked havoc upon the crops in earlier years. Calls flooded in as anxious viewers volunteered to help and inquired about how they could have a spaghetti tree.

    Another notable prank occurred in Canada the year that Canada introduced the $2 coin. Radio personalities on CHEZ FM convinced listeners that April 1 would be the last day $2 bills would be accepted. This time, banks were flooded with calls.

    Pranks, jokes and hoaxes have evolved over the many years, but are still every bit of the holiday that it once was. People use their imaginations to come up with elaborate tricks that confuse and even scare their friends and loved ones, but make them laugh with all of their might.

    Pranks don’t always have to be this elaborate. A good joke can be simple, just to make you and the victim laugh. The simplest joke can keep you and your friends laughing for hours or even days.

    Many people believe that April Fool’s Day was simultaneously created in several different cultures, all involving the introduction of Spring. It is said that April Fool’s Day is a celebration of Spring that lasts from March 25 to April 1 and the trickery is part of a child like playing that people of all ages can participate in. This holiday is in place for people to be jovial.

    Even with many disputes over how this holiday came to be, the most widely accepted explanation comes from around 1582 in France. One explanation is the holiday began because of the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, which changed New Year’s Day from April 1 to January 1.

    Many people did not get news of this change for years. Once they did, many people were outraged and refused to acknowledge the change of the calendar, continuing to celebrate the New Year on April 1. These people were called “poisson d’avril,” or “April fish,” because they were easily caught by the prank.  

    For some, April Fool’s is just another day. But this April Fool’s, take some time to prank someone you love or care about. You can find some tips for workplace appropriate April Fool’s jokes in this week’s career story. Not only will it be a good time, but laughter is the best medicine.

    Photo: Juniper Images