Know It All: April Fools' Day
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Know It All1 of 11
By Julie Fishman
Each April 1, people everywhere unleash their inner pranksters. Seemingly designed with scheming older brothers in mind, April Fools' Day dates back a few centuries and carries with it a long history of more than just practical jokes. Find out how the hilarious holiday came to be and the over-the-top pranks it has inspired.
A Calendar Quandary2 of 11
The exact origin of April Fools' Day is a mystery. While the first detailed references to the holiday date to the 1700s, the most popular theory links the tradition to a French calendar change in the 1500s that moved the start of the New Year from late March to Jan. 1. Those who were slow to hear the news, or who refused to change their ways, were called "poisson d'avril" (April fish), said to represent an easily caught guppy: in other words, a fool.
Ancient Origins?3 of 11
Alex Boese, curator of the Museum of Hoaxes in San Diego, doesn't buy the calendar theory. Along with other historians, he thinks our day of jest evolved from ancient spring festivals in which acting unruly, playing pranks and wearing disguises were common. The Indian Holi celebration and the medieval Feast of Fools have all been linked to April Fools' Day.
That's Hilarious4 of 11
Another precursor to April Fools' Day is the Roman festival of Hilaria, celebrated on March 25. It marks the date when the Roman god Attis was believed to have been resurrected. The festive occasion involved masquerades, playful mimicry and general hilarity.
Mystery Solved?5 of 11
On April 1, 1983, Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University, told Associated Press that he'd found the true source of April Fools' Day. He claimed that third-century Roman emperor Constantine I allowed a jester named Kugel to play king for a day. When handed the reigns on April 1, Kugel declared that the date forever be an official day of absurdity. A few weeks later, to the chagrin of both AP and BU, Boskin admitted that his tale was indeed a tall one.
One-of-a-Kind Carousing6 of 11
Several countries have developed unique April 1 traditions. Ukrainians in the port of Odessa dress as comical characters for the opening of Fools' Day Festival, an official holiday with talent competitions. In Macedonia, kids wear costumes and attend school carnivals. Turkey marks the start of its April Fools' celebrations by releasing hundreds of thousands of balloons into the air above the famous Istiklal Avenue in Instanbul.
Gowk-ward7 of 11
The Scotts celebrate April Fools' Day for 48 hours and label those who are tricked "April Gowks," their term for the cuckoo bird and an emblem for a fool. Pinning a tail to someone's rear or taping signs to people's backs are popular second-day pranks. Some historians even claim that the "kick me" sign originated from this Scottish tradition.
The Curious Case of Sidd Finch8 of 11
The April 1, 1985, edition of Sports Illustrated included a 14-page article about a pitcher named Sidd Finch who could toss the ball a record 168 miles per hour. An English orphan and Harvard University dropout, Sidd allegedly learned to pitch by flinging rocks in the mountains of Tibet, where he was training to be a monk. The article said the Mets found and secretly signed the ace. Fans were elated, only to learn a few days later that a writer had hatched the whole story as an April Fools' joke.
Corporate Chaos9 of 11
On April 1, 1996, when Taco Bell jokingly announced it had purchased Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and renamed the national treasure Taco Liberty Bell, the company received thousands of calls and generated nearly $25 million in free publicity. Burger King followed suit two years later by advertising a left-handed Whopper, a white lie that caused sales to skyrocket.
Truth in Television10 of 11
Our favorite media hoax has to be the BBC's classic 1957 Swiss Spaghetti Harvest story. The three-minute report, entitled "Panorama," showed strands of spaghetti being plucked from bushes. This resulted in many phone calls to the BBC, most of which were from viewers who believed the tale and wanted to know where they could buy spaghetti plants.
Survey Says...11 of 11
A study by market research firm Lab42 found that 40 percent of Americans plan to pull at least one April Fools' prank, with the most popular targets being friends, lovers and siblings, in that order. In this April Fools' Day survey, CareerBuilder.com found 33 percent of workers have played a practical joke on a co-worker and 17 percent are planning office tricks for this year's holiday. This prevalence of practical jokes leaves 7 percent of people paranoid—and another 11 percent annoyed—every April 1.
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