Episode 4 (formerly 1504): April Fool’s Day


Each April 1st in the USA people participate in April Fool’s Day. Other countries also celebrate April Fool’s Day or a similar “fool’s” day. However, it is not an official federal holiday; it is just for fun.

On April Fool’s Day people play harmless practical jokes on each other. In addition, print and broadcast media often create hoaxes that are then explained the next day. Of course, the Internet is a perfect place for jokes and hoaxes to appear every April 1st. Some even go viral.

A day set aside for jokes and tricks has a long history in much of the world. Ancient Romans had a festival of Hilaria in which pranks were part of the revelry. In India, playful teasing is part of the longstanding Holi festival every spring. Nowadays, in addition to America, other countries celebrate April Fool’s Day, or All Fool’s Day, such as Canada, Australia, South America and across Europe. In France and other countries, the victims of pranks and hoaxes are called “April Fish”.

Mention of April 1st as a day of tricks and shenanigans has been found in literature since the Middle Ages. In The Canterbury Tales, which date from the late 1300s, Chaucer writes in Middle English of April 1st as the day a sly fox tricked an egotistical rooster named Chauntecleer.

April Fool’s Day is so well known that it is referred to often in songs, poetry, books and films, either as part of the title, references in dialogues and descriptions, or as inspiration for the plotline.

Many notable, creative April Fool’s pranks have been perpetrated globally throughout the years. For example, in 1698, people were tricked into visiting the Tower of London to see the annual (nonexistent) lion-washing ceremony. In 1957, England’s BBC broadcast a fake documentary about Swiss farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees. There is even a virtual Museum of Hoaxes online at www.hoaxes.org which claims to have a location in San Diego, California, but in truth does not exist aside from the website.

One category of April Fool’s hoaxes is a company announcing a phony product. For example, American fast food company Taco Bell one year announced it had bought the Liberty Bell, a cherished American historical artifact. Another fast food company, Burger King, promoted a new “left-handed” hamburger on April 1st a few years ago.

Individuals must be on high alert on April Fool’s Day because friends and family may prank them by replacing their deodorant with cream cheese or by putting plastic pink flamingos in their front yards. Co-workers may secretly change one’s computer operating system to a foreign language. Their bosses may send them on wild goose chases, or ridiculous, pointless errands.

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