April Fools’ Day: Who came up with this idea?

Posted by AMS / Thursday, April 1, 2021

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Got any rubber snakes or spiders? That’s a favorite of pranksters and it usually provides some entertainment. Another fun one is a sprinkling of those little, round chocolate covered candies near the toilet. That works! Or maybe bubble wrap under an area rug? Or slap your friend on the back and leave a sticky note – that’s a good one. Or switching out sugar and salt? We’re all familiar with April Fools jokes, but have you ever wondered how and why April 1st became a day for funny pranks?

For an answer to that we went to the History.com website. Apparently the origin is a bit of a mystery, but the idea is several hundred years old. Here’s what they say:

“Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. In the Julian Calendar, as in the Hindu calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1. 

“People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.” These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.”

Another possible origin is the Hilaria festival which took place in ancient Rome. Hilaria is a Latin word for joyful. This festival sounds like something we could have fun with. The followers of the cult of Cybele would dress up in costumes to mock magistrates (the judicial officers.) Nowadays the political leaders give us plenty of joke possibilities.

Apparently the Scottish people had some fun with it. The history article says: “April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.”

Hopefully we’ll see some April Fools fun on April 1, 2021. We have made it through a year of ‘not much fun’ so we can use some humor. Here are some past jokes that we enjoyed:

“In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich. Google notoriously hosts an annual April Fools’ Day prank that has included everything from “telepathic search” to the ability to play Pac Man on Google Maps.”

Happy April Fool’s Day from AMS!! You might want watch out for a suspicious sprinkling of Milk Duds.