With the world so strange it’s difficult to cull fiction from fact without a footnote, our newsroom had a hard time writing a prank story or creating any journalistic sleight of hand. The levity of April Fool’s Day, even if this year it comes on the more somber Maundy Thursday, would be welcomed in this world-weary week, so if you happened to pull off a particularly precocious prank, please let us know – with pictures!
In the Julian Calendar, as we know, April 1 was the first day of the New Year. The Council of Trent called for the change to the Gregorian Calendar, the one we use today. The Council of Trent happened in 1563 but the ability to deliver announcements to a widespread audience was slow and sometimes ineffectual, so those who hadn’t received the memo were sometimes subjected to the laughter of their friends and neighbors as they continued to celebrate the new year in late March and early April.
If you can believe, it, they were called April Fools, and had jokes and hoaxes preyed upon them and even paper fish stuck to their backs, labeling them as, in French, “poisson d’avril” (April fish), symbolizing a young, easily caught fish or a terribly gullible person.
People have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and websites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences. In some non-pandemic time, it is possible this newsroom will craft a prank so great, it won’t soon be forgotten.
In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees. In 1985, Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton tricked many readers when he ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.
In 1992, National Public Radio featured former President Richard Nixon saying he was running for president again, only it was an actor, not Nixon, and the segment was all an April Fools’ Day prank that caught the country by surprise.
Can you believe it was 25 years ago when the fast food chain Taco Bell claimed it had reached an agreement to purchase the Liberty Bell to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell?
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.
April Fools’ Day traditions include playing hoaxes or practical jokes on others, often yelling “April Fools!” at the end to clue in the subject of the April Fools’ Day prank. While its exact history is shrouded in mystery, the embrace of April Fools’ Day jokes by the media and major brands has ensured the unofficial holiday’s long life.
Whether you cover the toilet in glitter or switch out sugar for salt, announce you’re moving the family to Tuvalu or set off an exploding rubber chicken, a day for levity and bedlam might be a welcome change from what happens every day. However, if the object of your prank gets angry, you didn’t get the idea here.