Tuesday, April 01, 2008



"April 1st: This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty four" - Mark Twain


Nobody knows for sure how the custom of April Fool's Day first originated. The most commonly accepted story is that it is French in origin. In 1564 King Charles IX decreed that New Year's was to be held on January 1 instead of its customary (according to the Julian calendar) April 1. He did this even before our modern Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582. After this mock presents and fake calls of ceremony became a way of having a bit of fun on the old New Year's. In France the person who was fooled by this became known as the poisson d'avril (April fish). One of the standard jokes became to try and pin a dead fish of the back of the fool. This has been replaced with sticky fish shaped cutouts. There are also fish shaped cookies and other sweets available at bakeries on this day.
While the above story is the most commonly accepted one it is not the whole story. Both French and Dutch references from 1508 and 1539 describe April Fool's jokes long before the above event. In Chaucer's Cantebury Tales the Nun's Priest Tale which concerns two fools takes place "thritty dayes and two" from the beginning of March ie April 1. This was written about 1400. In the Netherlands this day of jokes is more in commemoration of the beginning of their war of independence from Spain. On April 1, 1572 the Guezen (beggars) seized the town of Den Briel, beginning the revolution. Since then April 1 has been a day of mockery with the then Spanish army commander, the Duke of Alba, being the central "fool".
There are other "fools' days in other cultures. In Iran the prank day is April 3, the 13th day of the Persian calendar year. This day is called "sizdah bedar" (outdoor thirteen) because it is said that one should go outside on this day to escape bad luck. This custom of a joke day has been celebrated in Iran perhaps as far back as 536 BCE. In Spanish speaking countries (and in Belgium) the day for pranks is December 28, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. In Denmark they have two fools' days, both April 1 and also may 1, when it is traditional to play jokes. Not that the Danes are any more foolish than anyone else.
The Museum of Hoaxes has a list of what they consider the 100 greatest April Fools' jokes. View it HERE. Here are a couple of Molly's favourites:
A: The Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996 Taco Bell took out an ad claiming that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt", and were renaming it the 'Taco Liberty Bell'. When the White House press secretary was questioned about the sale he replied that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would be renamed the 'Ford Lincoln memorial'.
B: The Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect: In 1976 the British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that the alignment of Jupiter and Pluto on that day would make people perceptible lighter at exactly 9:47 am. he invited listeners to jump up at that time and experience a "strange floating sensation". Dozens of people phoned in to verify that the experiment had worked.
C: The Spaghetti Trees: On April 1, 1957 BBC TV ran a program depicting the spaghetti harvest from trees in Switzerland. They said that this year's crop would be a bumper one because the dreaded spaghetti weevil had been eradicated. A great number of people phoned in asking how they could grow their own spaghetti trees.
D: Alabama Changes the Value of Pi: the April 1998 newsletter of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason announced that the Alabama legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical term "Pi" so that it would accord with the "Biblical value" of 3.0.

1 comment:

caffeine head said...

it's great when take chances with their marketing campaigns (such as with the Taco Liberty Bell)