|April Fools’ Day|
An “April Fools’ Day” hoax marking the construction of the Copenhagen Metro in 2001
|Also called||All Fools’ Day|
|Next time||1 April 2015|
April Fools’ Day (sometimes called April Fool’s Day or All Fools’ Day) is celebrated every year on the first day of April as a day when people playpractical 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. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and the United States.
In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, in most of Europe. The feast’s octave was 1 April. The holiday may have originated in France as part of the shift to celebrating New Year’s on 1 January, a move formalized as part of the 1564Edict of Roussillon. It may have appeared earlier in Chaucer, but this is now generally discounted.
- 1 Origins
- 2 Long standing customs
- 2.1 United Kingdom
- 2.2 Ireland
- 2.3 Poland
- 2.4 Norway, Denmark and Sweden
- 2.5 April fish
- 3 April Fools’ Day pranks
- 4 Comparable prank days
- 5 Reception
- 6 Cultural references
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor is recognized everywhere. Some precursors of April Fools‘ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, the Holi festival of India, and the Medieval Feast of Fools.
In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon.Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May, 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 “32 March”, i.e. 1 April. 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 holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day”, the first British reference. On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.
In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on 25 March in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on 1 April. Some writers suggest that April Fools’ originated because those who celebrated on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of 1 January as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.
Long standing customs
United Kingdom[edit source
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. A person playing a joke after midday is the “April fool” themselves.
In Scotland, April Fools’ Day was traditionally called ‘Huntigowk Day’, although this name has fallen into disuse. The name is a corruption of ‘Hunt the Gowk’, “gowk” being Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person; alternate terms inGaelic would be Là na Gocaireachd ‘gowking day’ or Là Ruith na Cuthaige ‘the day of running the cuckoo’. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message that supposedly requests 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 next person with an identical message, with the same result.
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”.
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 1 April 1683, was backdated to 31 March.
Norway, Denmark and Sweden
Norwegians, Danes and Swedes celebrate April Fools’ Day (aprilsnar in Danish). Most news media outlets will publish exactly one false story on 1 April; for newspapers this will typically be a first-page article but not the top headline.
April fish[edit source
In Italy, France, Belgium, and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, 1 April 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’ Daypostcards.
April Fools’ Day pranks
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, theBBC broadcast a film in their Panorama current affairs series purporting to show 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 hoax on the news the next day.
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.
Comparable prank days
28 December, the equivalent day in Spain and the Hispanic 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 1 April 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 1 April.
The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial. 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”.
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. 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.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.
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. When genuine news is published on April Fools’ Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke—for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4 MB or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright. On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion, misinformation, waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger), and even legal or commercial consequences.
Books, films, telemovies and television episodes have used April Fool’s Day as their title or inspiration. Examples includeBryce Courtenay’ novel April Fool’s Day (1993), whose title refers to the day Courtenay’s son died, and the arts, entertainment, and media listed at April Fool’s Day (disambiguation)], and at IMDb. For further examples, see April Fool’s Day (disambiguation)].