Get the facts behind the (April) Fools

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By Oliver Van Aken

April Fools/A prank pulled on April 1, 2001 in Denmark to commemorate the finishing of the Copenhagen subway. April Fools came about because of a calendar change in the Middle Ages. Photo licensed under CC BY 2.0

It’s pretty common knowledge that April Fool’s Day is a holiday in Western Culture celebrated annually on the first of April. Those partaking in the festivities usually perform a practical joke or hoax on another person. However, it’s probably not common knowledge that the holiday has transformed throughout its long history into the April Fool’s Day known today.

“My favorite thing about April Fool’s Day is pulling pranks on my friends,” sophomore Jacob Poppy said. “It’s fun to get back at them every now and then.”

There are many theories on where April Fools originated, but the most credible one comes from the Middle Ages when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. On the Julian calendar, New Year’s would be celebrated on April 1, but on the new Gregorian calendar, it was marked on Jan. 1. When France switched schedules, the citizens that didn’t get the memo and celebrated New Year’s in April would be known as “April Fools.”

“I first found out about April Fool’s Day in fourth grade,” freshman Tatum Mogue said. “One of my classmates said ‘look there’s an elephant’ in the middle of class. We all turned to see that there wasn’t an actual elephant.”

As April Fool’s Day spread around the world, many countries adopted ways to celebrate the holiday. For instance, in Italy and France, it is common for people to tape paper fishes to the backs of unaware victims. In Ireland and the U.K. pranks only take place until noon, and if you don’t follow that rule, you are considered the fool. Scotland’s April Fool’s Day lasts two days: on the first-day people usually pull pranks on each other, but on the second day, people tape tails on one another’s backs.

“One year in college I printed out pictures of actor Misha Collins, and put them everywhere in my apartment,” front desk secretary Ms. Coffee said. “My roommate was finding the pictures for weeks, and just when she thought she got them all, she would find more.”

Since April Fool’s Day originated, many jokes and pranks have been made, but not all were funny to the public eye. One of the worst hoaxes ever reported was in 1998 when Dictator Saddam Hussein ordered for a joke to be put in the Babil newspaper by his son Uday, the owner of the paper. The rouse was that President Clinton was lifting the sanctions placed on Iraq by the U.S. and when the Iraqi citizens found out it was a joke, they were very frustrated. Another infamous April Fool’s Day prank was in 1998 when Burger King jokingly announced they would start selling left-handed whoppers. It backfired when thousands of people were frustrated that their orders for the left-handed whoppers were not being fulfilled.

“The worst prank that has ever happened to me was when someone told me that their dog had died,” freshman Katie Bellamy said. “I was relieved when they later told me it was a prank.”

On the other hand, there have also been many hilarious antics throughout the years. One of the best pranks ever reported was in 1957 when the BBC current-affairs program, “Panorama,” broadcast a story on the “Spaghetti Tree Harvest Festival.” They showed pictures of families in southern Switzerland picking strands of spaghetti out of tall trees. British citizens knew little about spaghetti, as it was seen as a foreign delicacy; some even called BBC asking how to make their own spaghetti tree. BBC responded, “Plant a piece of spaghetti in a can of tomato sauce and see what happens.”

“One year I saran-wrapped the bathroom door,” junior Elizabeth Berry said. “My dad tried to open the door, but it wouldn’t work. It was hilarious.”

Students don’t need to be left empty-handed this year when April Fool’s Day comes around. Cougars can find easy examples of pranks to pull on family and friends by clicking here. As American humorist, Josh Billings once said: “Take all the fools out of this world and there wouldn’t be any fun living in it.”

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News editor Oliver Van Aken is a sophomore, and this is his second year on staff. Oliver loves to write news, features and take photos for the website. His other elective is French I and is taking French II online. In his free time he hangs out with friends, studies for AP World, and participates in Young Mens Service League.