Let’s face it, we’ve all been caught in an April Fool’s joke once or twice and felt like a fool afterwards.
In the age of social media, many companies, media outlets and celebrities have started defrauding unsuspecting customers, audiences and fans on April 1st.
But where did it all start?
Good question, and the answer is that no one really knows for sure. An event or story that might explain the origin of April Fools’ Day is that France switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1582.
Originally, the French New Year fell on the vernal equinox, in late March or early April, but this changed to January 1 with the transition to the Gregorian calendar. Those who were slow to change calendars or refused to do so reportedly became targets of jokes and jokes as early as the 16th century.
Some historians have said that those who did not change their calendar were called “April Fools.”
Other historians have theorized that its origins date back to ancient Rome and the festival of Hilaria, in which people dressed up in costumes and mocked others.
The tradition of April Fools’ Day has only grown stronger in modern times with such easy access to endless information, which can easily be made up.
But before the digital age, the BBC played a remarkable prank on many unsuspecting viewers.
In 1957, it reported that Swiss farmers had a record spaghetti crop and showed people harvesting noodles from trees. The joke went down like a treat.
In 1992, National Public Radio in the US fooled thousands into thinking that former President Richard Nixon was running again by using an actor’s voice.
Also in the 1990s, Burger King announced they were releasing a “Left Handed Whopper” and reported thousands of unsuspecting customers asking for the burger after the prank was announced.
A particularly memorable joke on modern TV came when Bart Simpson hospitalized Homer with a beer can that he had shaken so vigorously that it exploded, leaving Homer in a coma for weeks.
Skilled tricks played by members of the public include putting cling film over the toilet bowl to make a mess or fiddling with the remotes in the house to drive a member of your family to the brink of madness to float.
One gag that was not well received was when fast food chain Taco Bell announced on April 1, 1996 that it had purchased Philadelphia’s cherished Liberty Bell and would change its name to Taco Liberty Bell.
The company ran full-page advertisements in newspapers and it caused a big stir in the city before backing down and admitting it had all been a joke.