April Fools' Day

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April Fools' Day
Aprilsnar 2001.png
An "April Fools' Day" hoax marking the construction of the Copenhagen Metro in 2001
Also called All Fools' Day
Type Cultural, Western
Significance Practical pranks
Observances Comedy
Date April 1
Next time 1 April 2015 (2015-04-01)
Frequency annual

April Fools' Day (sometimes called April Fool's Day or All Fools' Day) is celebrated every year on the first day of April. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in Europe and celebrated as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. The jokes and their victims are known as "April fools". Hoax stories may be reported by the press and other media on this day and explained on subsequent days. The most known theory for its origin holds that those who celebrated New Year's Day on April 1st after the implementation of the Gregorian Christian calendar in the year 1582 were called "fools" - hence the name of "April Fool's" - or "fish".

Origins[edit]

An 1857 ticket to "Washing the Lions" at the Tower of London in London. No such event ever took place.

A variety of explanations have been given for the April Fools tradition, many affiliated with early Christian practice. The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one's neighbor is recognized everywhere.[1] Some precursors of April Fools' Day include the festival of Hilaria,[2] and the Medieval Feast of Fools,.[3]

In the Middle Ages, up until the late 18th century, New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation) in most European towns.[4] In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on April 1.[2][3] Many writers suggest that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on January 1 mocked of those who celebrated on other dates.[2] The use of January 1 as New Year's Day was common in France by the mid-16th century,[5] and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

One belief is that the reason All Fools' Day now falls in April is related to the 1582 implementation of the Gregorian calendar reform in France, which shifted the marking of the arrival of the new year from a week-long gift-giving celebration spanning March 25 to April 1 to a single-day observance on January 1. "When some people, whether out of stubbornness or lack of information, persisted in celebrating the new year at the end of March, others started to mock ... with gag gifts and other teasing gestures".

In France an April fool is called a poisson d'avril, an "April fish," perhaps because young fish that appear in streams around this time of the year are more easily caught than older, cagier fish. French shops sell chocolates shaped like fish for the occasion. People try to pin paper fish on each other's backs as a joke, and the perpetrator cries out triumphantly, "April fish!"[6][7]

Other accounts go back to the time of Noah and the ark, the London Public Advertiser of March 13, 1769, published the following paragraph concerning this theory: "The mistake of Noah sending the dove out of the ark before the water had abated, on the first day of April, and to perpetuate the memory of this deliverance it was thought proper, whoever forgot so remarkable a circumstance, to punish them by sending them upon some sleeveless errand similar to that ineffectual message upon which the bird was sent by the patriarch."[1]

Other accounts argue that April is the time of the year, around Easter when the passion of Jesus took place and Jesus was sent back and forth from one official to another — from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to Pilate, and from Pilate to Herod to be mocked and tormented, and that from this arose our present custom, "by which we send one place to another such persons as we think proper objects of our ridicule".[8] The French name for an April fool (poisson d'Avril) is offered as support for this on the supposition that "poisson" is a corruption of "passion."[1]

In Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales of (1392), the "Nun's Priest's Tale" is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two.[9][10] Many modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon.[11] Thus, the passage originally meant 32 days after April, i.e. 2 May,[5] the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean "March 32", i.e. April 1.[12] In Chaucer's tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "April fish"), a possible reference to the practise of pranking.[13] In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1.[5] In 1686, John Aubrey referred to "Fooles holy day", the first British reference.[5] On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed".[5]

Longstanding customs[edit]

An April Fools' Day prank of a purported new design for three level city bus, from an April 1926 issue of the company newspaper Echo Continental, published by the Continental Rubber Works Hannover AG company

United Kingdom[edit]

In the UK, an April fool joke is revealed by shouting "April fool!" at the recipient, who becomes the "April fool". A study in the 1950s, by folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, found that in the UK, and in countries whose traditions derived from the UK, the joking ceased at midday.[14] A person playing a joke after midday is the "April fool" themselves.[15]

In Scotland, April Fools' Day is traditionally called Hunt-the-Gowk Day ("gowk" is Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person; Là na Gocaireachd 'gowking day' or Là Ruith na Cuthaige 'the day of running the cuckoo' in Gaelic), although this name has fallen into disuse. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message requesting help of some sort. In fact, the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile". The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this person with an identical message, with the same result.[14]

Ireland[edit]

In Ireland it was traditional to entrust the victim with an "important letter" to be given to a named person. That person would then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter when finally opened contained the words "send the fool further".[16]

Iran[edit]

In Iran, jokes are played on the 13th day of the Persian new year (Nowruz), which falls on April 1 or April 2. This day, celebrated as far back as 536 BC,[17] is called Sizdah Bedar and is the oldest prank-tradition in the world still alive today.[18]

French April fools postcards (Poissons d'avril)

Poland[edit]

In Poland, prima aprilis ("1 April" in Latin) is a day full of jokes; various hoaxes are prepared by people, media (which sometimes cooperate to make the "information" more credible) and even public institutions. Serious activities are usually avoided. This conviction is so strong that the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on April 1, 1683, was backdated to March 31.[19]

Norway, Denmark and Sweden[edit]

Norwegians, Danes and Swedes celebrate April Fools' Day (aprilsnar in Danish). Most news media outlets will publish exactly one false story on April 1; for newspapers this will typically be a first-page article but not the top headline.[20]

April fish[edit]

In Italy, France, Belgium, and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, April 1 tradition is often known as "April fish" (poissons d'avril in French or pesce d'aprile in Italian). This includes attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed. Such fish feature prominently on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools' Day postcards.

April Fools' Day pranks[edit]

As well as people playing pranks on one another on April Fools' Day, elaborate practical jokes have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, web sites, and have been performed by large corporations. In one famous prank from 1957, the BBC broadcast a fake film of Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC were later flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a prank on the news the next day.[21] With the advent of the internet and readily available global news services, April Fool's pranks can catch and embarrass a wider audience than ever before.[22]

Comparable prank days[edit]

December 28, the equivalent day in Spain and Hispano-America, is also the Christian day of celebration of the "Day of the Holy Innocents". The Christian celebration is a holiday in its own right, a religious one, but the tradition of pranks is not, though the latter is observed yearly. After somebody plays a joke or a prank on somebody else, the joker usually cries out, in some regions of Ibero-America: Inocente palomita que te dejaste engañar ("You innocent little dove that let yourself be fooled"). In Mexico, the phrase is ¡Inocente para siempre! which means "Innocent forever!". In Argentina, the prankster says ¡Que la inocencia te valga!, which roughly translates as a piece of advice on not to be as gullible as the victim of the prank. In Spain, it is common to say just ¡Inocente! (which in Spanish can mean "Innocent!", but also "Gullible!"). Nevertheless, on the Spanish island of Minorca, Dia d'enganyar ("Fooling day") is celebrated on April 1 because Menorca was a British possession during part of the 18th century. In Brazil, the "Dia da mentira" ("Day of the lie") is also celebrated on April 1.[23]

Reception[edit]

The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial.[15][24] The mixed opinions of critics are epitomised in the reception to the 1957 BBC "Spaghetti-tree hoax", in reference to which, newspapers were split over whether it was "a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public".[25]

The positive view is that April Fools can be good for one's health because it encourages "jokes, hoaxes...pranks, [and] belly laughs", and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart.[26] There are many "best of" April Fools' Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the holiday is celebrated.[27] Various April Fools campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort – especially those from the major corporations such as Google and Apple.[citation needed]

The negative view describes April Fools hoaxes as "creepy and manipulative", "rude" and "a little bit nasty", as well as based on schadenfreude and deceit.[24] It has been argued that when genuine news is published on April Fools' Day, it can be misinterpreted as a joke. On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion;[28] misinformation; waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger); even legal or commercial consequences.[29][30]

Cultural references[edit]

Books, films, telemovies and television episodes have used April Fool's Day as their title or inspiration.[31][32]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Bonner, John; Curtis, George William; Alden, Henry Mills; Samuel Stillman Conant, John Foord, Montgomery Schuyler, John Kendrick Bangs, Richard Harding Davis, Carl Schurz, George Brinton McClellan Harvey, Henry Loomis Nelson, Norman Hapgood (1908). Harper's Weekly. Harper's Magazine Company. p. 6. 
  2. ^ a b c "April Fools’ Day". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Santino, Jack (1972). All around the year: holidays and celebrations in American life. University of Illinois Press. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-252-06516-3. 
  4. ^ Groves, Martha (2006). Manners and customs in the Middle Ages. New York, NY: Crabtree Pub. Co. p. 27. ISBN 0-7787-1357-1. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Boese, Alex (2008). "The Origin of April Fool’s Day". Museum of Hoaxes. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  6. ^ Coffey, Kathy (2012). Companion to the Calendar, Second Edition. Liturgy Training Publications. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-56854-260-7. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Watts, Linda S. (2006). Encyclopedia of American Folklore. Infobase Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-4381-2979-2. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  8. ^ Harvard Magazine. Sever and Francis. 1864. p. 253. 
  9. ^ The Canterbury Tales: The Nun's Priest's Tale
  10. ^ "Chaucer in the Twenty-First Century: The Nun's Priest's Tale". University of Maine at Machias. September 21, 2007. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  11. ^ Poster, Carol; Utz, Richard J. (1997). Disputatio: An International Transdisciplinary Journal of the Late Middle Ages. 2, Constructions of Time in the Late Middle Ages. Northwestern University Press. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-8101-1541-5. 
  12. ^ Compare with Valentine's Day, a custom that originated with a similar misunderstanding of Chaucer.
  13. ^ d'Amerval, Eloy (1991). Le Livre de la Deablerie. Librairie Droz. p. 70. ISBN 9782600026727. "De maint homme et de mainte fame, poisson d'Apvril vien tost a moy." 
  14. ^ a b Opie, Iona & Peter (1960). The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. Oxford University Press. pp. 246–247. ISBN 0-940322-69-2. 
  15. ^ a b Archie Bland (April 1, 2009). "The Big Question: How did the April Fool's Day tradition begin, and what are the best tricks?". The Independent. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  16. ^ Haggerty, Bridget. "April Fool's Day". Irish Culture and Customs. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "Sizdah Bedar & Purim: The Riddle of Sizdah Bedar". February 28, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  18. ^ Maughan, Jennifer. "The History of April Fools' Day". Life123. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Origin of April Fools’ Day". The Express Tribune. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  20. ^ "April Fool’s Day: 8 Interesting Things And Hoaxes You Didn't Know". International Business Times. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Swiss Spaghetti Harvest". Retrieved November 2013. 
  22. ^ Moran, Rob (4 April 2014). "NPR’s Brilliant April Fools’ Day Prank Was Sadly Lost On Much Of The Internet". Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  23. ^ "Avui és el Dia d'Enganyar a Menorca" [Today is Fooling Day on Minorca] (in Catalan). Vilaweb. April 1, 2003. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  24. ^ a b Doll, Jen (2013-04-01). "Is April Fools' Day the Worst Holiday? – Yahoo News". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  25. ^ "Is this the best April Fool's ever?". BBC. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  26. ^ "Why April Fools’ Day is Good For Your Health – Health News and Views". News.Health.com. 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  27. ^ "April Fools: the best online pranks | SBS News". Sbs.com.au. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  28. ^ Woods, Michael (2013-04-02). "Brazeau tweets his resignation on April Fool’s Day, causing confusion – National". Globalnews.ca. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  29. ^ Hasham, Nicole (3 April 2013). "ASIC to look into prank Metgasco email from schoolgirl Kudra Falla-Ricketts". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  30. ^ "Justin Bieber's Believe album hijacked by DJ Paz". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  31. ^ For example, Bryce Courtenay (1993). April Fool's Day (novel). Port Melbourne, Victoria: W. Heinemann Australia. ISBN 0-85561-479-X. 
  32. ^ IMDb listing of April Fools' Day films

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]