Who Needs April Fools’ Day? (Everyone!)

April Fools’ Day is an annual celebration that spans centuries and cultures. It comprises hoaxes and practical jokes aimed at fooling the recipients. From using whoopee cushions to fake spiders (like in this prank kit from Amazon), April 1st is a day set aside for tricking our friends and foe alike. Although it is open to all, is April Fools’ Day actually needed and if so, why and for whom?

April Fools’ Day is needed for everyone all around the world because it’s a fun way to bring people together. It provides a good excuse to be silly with pranks and jokes, breaking up the mundane and morose of our daily lives with comedic effect. After all, laughter is the best medicine.

In this article, I am going to review the history of April Fools’ Day and how it has developed over time. I will also discuss rules and etiquette of celebrating it, the pranks to avoid, and some iconic pranks that have gone down in history.

Hopefully this will inform your next April Fools’ Day!


What Is The History Of April Fools’ Day?

There are many prevailing theories of the origin of April Fools’ Day but truly it’s one of life’s mysteries!

Exact origins of April Fools’ Day are unknown, but reliable theories abound. Some say April Fools’ Day is connected to the switch from the Julian calendar to Gregorian, while others speculate it’s from the Roman feast, Hilaria. As well, April pranks in literature are as early as 1561.

Here are brief descriptions of the most popular theories:

  1. A Flemish poem by Eduard De Dene in 1561

The first specific mention of April Fools’ Day is found in this poem by Eduard de Dene. A lord sends his servant on wild, pointless errands in the poem. Because it’s April 1st, the servant realizes he’s being dispatched on “fool’s errands.” 

This trick in which they assign someone an errand to find a nonexistent person or object is still a popular April Fools’ joke almost 500 years later. I remember a modified version used in my high school. It was called Endless Journey.

As a teacher, we’d do pranks on students every year (and of course, students tried to prank us too.) For instance, one time we told kids that the principal is making everyone walk backwards from now on. And, speak backwards, too. After a few minutes, students realized it was a joke and would laugh, after trying to walk and speak backwards first. Another time, a teacher friend and I sent student messengers back and forth from our rooms to the others. We kept doing it for the silliest reasons, until eventually the students realized they were being pranked.

  1. The calendar switch of France

Many historians believe the modern April Fool’s Day stems from when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582. The Council of Trent of the Catholic Church called for this change in 1563. In the new calendar, the beginning of the new year had moved from March (Julian) to January 1st

Those who received news of the change late still celebrated from the last week of March to April 1st and became the targets of hoaxes and jokes.

  1. A theory based on a holiday mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in 1392

In the book, one silly tale takes place on March 32nd, which of course, doesn’t exist. This implies ‘April 1st’. However, there are scholars under the impression that it’s a misprint of the times and Chaucer meant March 31st.

4. Roman feast of Hilaria

This was an ancient Roman festival at the end of March and people commonly dressed up in disguises and played pranks.

5. Spring Irregular Weather

Then there are those that believe April Fools’ Day came about as a natural way of dealing with the irregular springtime weather. Since Spring ‘makes a fool of everyone’ with it’s back and forth climate, then it’s natural to make a fool of others with silly pranks and jokes.

As logical as this theory might be, I must say as someone who lives in the south, we deal with irregular weather all the time, even in December. One day it’s 33 degrees (F) and the next, it’s 70! If this theory were true, then I’d say we Southerners would be pulling pranks all year long!

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Further Developments of April Fools Day

-Alex Boese, the curator of the Museum of Hoaxes, says the earliest April Fools’ Day hoax on record was in 1698. Londoners were told to go see the annual ceremony of the washing of the lions at the Tower of London. They showed up and there was no washing ceremony.

Humorina in Odesa, Ukraine, known as the ‘Holiday of Humor’, is on April Fools’ Day, April 1st.

-Besides Odesa, Ukraine, where April 1st is an official city holiday, it is not a public holiday in any other country.

Is April Fools’ Day Worldwide?

April Fools’ Day is celebrated all over the world, not just in the US. From India to Brazil, countries all over the world do pranks and jokes on April 1st, and in Scotland, it’s actually celebrated for two days. Though specific customs vary, most play harmless practical jokes and pranks.

One of the biggest international April Fools pranks was by the BBC in Britain. On 4/1/1957 they ran a segment by one of their news programs about the cultivation of spaghetti. During the piece, it showed farmers picking spaghetti from trees.

BBC’s Panorama Programme spoofed the entire nation on 1 April 1957 as it was a Monday and felt it was perfect timing to pull a prank!

It done this in its well-known serious tone and provided many facts and figures about ‘harvesting homegrown spaghetti’. Many viewers were surprised to learn that spaghetti was farmed like potatoes and grapes!

Some ways other countries celebrate Aprils’ Fools Day:

  • In France and Italy kids stick paper fishes on the backs of unsuspecting victims. In fact, kids in France call out “Poisson d’Avril!” which literally means ‘April fish!’ to their targets!

  • In the UK, April Fools’ jokes and pranks are done (mostly by kids) but that being said, it’s expected to be over by noon. Anything after that is considered poor taste and even ‘bad luck.’

  • In Scotland, they observe April 1st for jokes and April 2nd as ‘Tailie Day’ where they try to stick tails on each other.

  • Brazil is much like the US where pranks and jokes can go on all day, plus the news and entertainment media get in on it too. Therefore, it’s safe to consider any info that’s a bit strange or outrageous as ‘fake news’ on April 1st!

What Are The Rules Of April Fool’s Day?

Although it’s standard to expect some sort of prank on April 1st and take it good-naturedly, there are unwritten rules that should be expected. Jokes and pranks should not cause harm; undue stress; or be expensive, for example. Pranks should not interfere with one’s daily life or job either.

Since the entire point of April Fool’s Day is to make people look foolish, it is normal for the victims of pranks and jokes to feel a little inconvenienced though. Inconvenience, on the other hand, should never escalate into actual aggression or damage. This involves harming someone’s mental health.

According to experts, adults should use caution when pranking kids or someone with a mental disability. It’s very easy for pranks and jokes to be taken seriously and misconstrued, losing the comical effect altogether, and move into bullying category.

Hurt no one, damage no property, and don’t engage in any illegal activity are basics to follow when considering a prank for April 1st.

For instance, on April 1, 1817, a Parisian woman stole a jeweled watch from her friend and tried to pass it off as an April Fools’ joke after getting caught. This was not a good reason, or considered ‘valid’. Thus, she was imprisoned for a year. 

Other rules for April Fools’ Day are:

  1. The joke or prank should not cause injury.
  2. The joke or prank should not be unduly inconvenient.
  3. Any prank or joke should be easily reversible.
  4. For the most part, an April Fool’s joke or prank should be inexpensive to perform, or not costly at all.
  5. Jokes or pranks should not be crude or vulgar.
  6. Jokes or pranks should never be dangerous to others or property, etc.

Types Of Pranks To Avoid On April Fools’ Day

Comedian, Ellen DeGeneres, is notorious for pulling April Fool’s Day jokes.

April Fool’s Day pranks that make people laugh are wonderful, but things can turn deadly without caution. A lot of teenagers and young adults participate in risky pranks and stunts. Accidents and injuries can be avoided by utilizing common sense.

Follow these safety tips for April Fools’ Day:

  • Avoid pranks on vehicles and drivers – the possibilities for danger to occur are limitless. Leave drivers alone!
  • Minimize your use of water – Water pranks can create slippery surfaces which go hand-in-hand with falls. 
  • Stay away from pranks with Dangerous Objects – do not use scissors, knives, heavy objects, and tools in pranks. They can do serious damage, especially when the prank is directed at an unsuspecting victim.
  • Avoid Heights and Stairs – leave people on staircases, rooftops, and ladders, out of your pranks. There is nothing funny about broken bones and head injuries.

Iconic April Fools’ Pranks Gone Wrong

Though most can enjoy an April Fools’ joke in stride, there are some jokes that go way too far.

There is a lot that could go wrong with an April Fools’ prank. Whether or not it’s a little outrageous, things become chaotic when public peace is interrupted. Look at two of such pranks:

  • In 1986, an Israeli intelligence officer thought it was a good idea to spread fake news about an assassination attempt on an Islamic leader’s life. The prankster insisted that the leader had been seriously injured and caused a flare-up of tensions in the region; eventually, the high-ranking culprit was court-martialed.
  • In 2013, a woman called Susan Tammy Hudson from Kingsport, Tennessee, called her sister on April 1, claiming to have murdered her husband. According to her, she had shot him and she was cleaning up before going to bury him. 

Her call was to ask for her sister’s help with disposing of the body. It wasn’t funny because the police came in full force to arrest a murderer. Charges were not pressed because Hudson’s husband returned home alive.

There’s hardly a soul who does not know about the day dedicated to pranks worldwide. With the far-reaching capabilities of the internet, April Fools’ pranks can catch and embarrass a wider audience than ever before. Have fun with your pranks, but be cautious.

Things You Should Not Do As An April Fools’ Prank/Joke:

  • Anything about terrorism
  • Anything involving guns or other kinds of harm
  • Don’t play sick
  • Don’t do anything so shocking that could cause someone undue stress (i.e. anything about affairs or break-ups; ‘you’re fired’ jokes/pranks; pranks about pregnancies; about having a wreck)
  • Don’t play a prank on anyone above their mental capacity

What If You Don’t Want To Celebrate April Fools’ Day?

Not everyone wants to celebrate April Fools’ Day but that’s not always possible. It’s easy for you to go about your regular day on April 1st and avoid doing any jokes or pranks on others, but it’s best not to tell friends and family not to prank you. That will probably be considered an invitation!

However, many families don’t do pranks so it may be that your family just skips that. But beware, others are still apt to try to trick or fool you. From grocery store clerks to the TV newsman, you might encounter silly jokes or ruses April 1st.

Keep that in mind as you go through the day and overall, try not to take it too seriously or be upset over a joke or prank for April Fools. After all, it’s just one day of the year (unless you’re Scottish!).

Wrapping Up Who Needs April Fools’ Day?

To wrap it up, April Fools’ Day is actually a needed day around the world, in my opinion. It’s a day for silliness and fun, and who doesn’t need a bit of that, at least once a year?

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Source: Insider; Britannica

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