By Lynn Blamires Content Writer for My Local Utah
Everyone at one time or another has fallen victim to a prank specific to April first. Perhaps one of the reasons for its popularity has to do with human nature. Once we have fallen for a prank, we want to mend our damaged pride by pranking someone else.
The history of the day is a little fuzzy, but according to the Washington Post, “April Fools’ Day has its origins in ancient Rome, with a festival known as ‘Hilaria’.” Held on March 25, “Hilaria was a day for games, masquerades and generally whiling away the day with relentless mocking — not even local magistrates were immune.”
“The Museum of Hoaxes (that really does exist) notes that there’s no direct evidence that April Fools’ Day came from any celebration: “Instead, it’s more likely that April Fool’s Day resembles other celebrations because they’re all manifestations of a deeper pattern of folk behavior — an instinct to respond to the arrival of spring with festive mischief and symbolic misrule.”
The Museum of Hoaxes is real in that it has a website and it is always open in San Diego – however, there is no brick and mortar building. When people ask how to find it, Mr. Boese, who built the site, admits that it is a hoax. There is a photo of the museum, but it isn’t real. It has been photoshopped into the site with instructions on how to find it; “Keep driving until you see a giant floating jack-a-lope off to your right … If you reach LA, you’ve gone too far.”
The Catholic Church “is also implicated in the most popular theory about the evolution of April Fools’ Day. It was Pope Gregory XIII, after all, who issued a decree in the late 1500s ordering that Christian countries adopt a standardized calendar. The Gregorian calendar moved the New Year from the end of March to the first of January; people who continued to celebrate on the old day, either because it was the 16th century and word traveled slowly or because they simply wanted to be a rebel, were mocked as “April fools.”
“By the end of the next century, April Fools’ Day was so ingrained that people had to entirely stop attempting to achieve serious things on April 1. It’s said that the Treaty of Warsaw, which established an anti-Ottoman alliance between Poland and the Holy Roman Empire, was backdated from April 1 to March 31, 1683, just to prevent any possible confusion.”
“One born every minute” is an old adage that is “used to say that there are many people in the world who are foolish and can be easily deceived.” Currently, there are deals too good to be true all over the internet. This is the reason that people are still naive enough to perpetuate April fools’ traditions.
In 1957 the BBC convinced a number of people in England that a Swiss farmer had harvested long strands of pasta from a grove of spaghetti trees. Some even inquired about how they could get spaghetti trees of their own.
On April 1, 1962, Sweden’s one and only television station at the time announced an amazing discovery. By stretching out a pair of nylon stockings and taping it over their screens, viewers could watch the usual black-and-white broadcast in stunning color. Television owners rushed to implement the astonishingly simple hack, only to be disappointed when the hose did nothing but obscure the picture.
April 1, 1976, the BBC pulled off another prank by interviewing Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore who announced that at 9:47 a.m. that day, the temporary alignment of Pluto and Jupiter would cause a reduction in Earth’s gravity, allowing people to briefly levitate. Sure enough, at 9:48, hundreds of enthralled callers flooded the lines with reports that they had floated in the air.
In a full-page advertisement in USA Today on April 1, 1998, Burger King unveiled a new menu item specifically engineered for southpaws: the Left-Handed Whopper. According to the fast-food chain, the burger’s condiments were rotated 180 degrees to better suit the 1.4 million lefties who patronized its restaurants. Thousands of customers requested the new burger.
National Geographic in 2016 announced to the world that it would no longer be publishing photographs of naked animals: “The media group says that it will no longer degrade animals by showing photos of them without clothes.” Readers learned when they visited their website that it was a joke.
I have not been immune from the effects of this day. My mother loved April fool’s Day. The one person, whom I should be able to trust, crossed the line. She packed school lunches for me in elementary school and on that special day, I bit into my sandwich to find that something was wrong. I opened it and found a note with a bite mark out of it that read, “April Fools.”
I have picked up my mother’s love for that special day and have carried on the tradition. I was able to get under the hood of my neighbor’s truck, unbeknownst to him, and put red food coloring in his windshield washer reservoir. The results were satisfying.
On another occasion, I borrowed a dozen eggs from the same person. Purchasing a new carton, I was ready to return them when I thought, “Why not trade out every other egg with a hard-boiled egg?” The story of what happened next made my day. When he set out to make cookies, he tried to crack one of the hard ones. Throwing it away, the next one was good. When he tried the next one, it was hard. Then he realized where the eggs had come from.
Watch for pranks of the day this year and every year, but avoid those that might cause harm. As a closing thought, after writing this article, I was surprised to learn that gullible is not in the dictionary.