The Origin of April Fools’ Day

Origin of April Fools Day

Do you know what today is?

It’s the first day of April, just another normal day… except that today is also known as
APRIL FOOLS’ DAY! (horror-movie scream followed by dun dun dun.)

While you may want to be extra careful today and expect to be pranked, we’ve researched the history of this strange day. Seriously, when and why did this day come about? And, we rounded up 3 of the Most Infamous April Fools’ Day pranks ever. They’re seriously good.

Read on!

Origin of April Fools’ Day

The origins of April Fools’ Day are murky, and there are a few different theories on how the day of pranks originated. The most commonly held theory cites the year 1582 as the culprit. This is the year France adopted the Gregorian calendar, effectively marking the year’s end in December and setting the New Year at the beginning of January. (Previously, New Year’s Day had always been celebrated at the end of March/first of April.) According to UrbanLegends.Com, “some folks, out of ignorance, stubbornness, or both, continued to ring in the New Year on April first and were made the butt of jokes and pranks on account of their foolishness. This became an annual tradition which ultimately spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world.”

However, USAToday.com suggests another theory about the origins of April 1st. According to their findings, “the earliest connection of April 1 to playing tricks is documented in a 1561 poem by Flemish writer, Eduard de Dene.” The poem, Poisson D’Avril (April fool, literally meaning “April Fish”) supposedly describes a nobleman who sends his servants on absurd errands every 1st day of April.

There are yet other theories suggesting a connection to the Roman Festival of Hilaria or the Hindu Festival of Colors known as Holi, or the Jewish Festival of Purim; each of these theories seem to connect pranks with the welcoming of Spring and start of the Spring Equinox.

Infamous April Fools’ Day Pranks

1934 — Lung-Powered Flying Machine

This infamous prank may be considered the most classic April Fools’ prank in media history. In 1934, German magazine Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung, published an article about a new flying machine propelled solely by human lung power. The photo below was used as evidence of the defying new invention and was published as factual around the world. In fact, the New York Times even ran the story after the International News Photo wire service mistakenly distributed the image as real.

Lung powered flying machine

1957— Spaghetti Tree Harvest

Often considered the first April Fools’ prank to be televised and thought to be so ridiculous no one would actually believe the fake story, the BBC ran a short segment on a ‘spaghetti harvest’ on the show Panorama. The harvest was said to be discovered in southern Switzerland, and the mysterious new produce was attributed to the “virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil.” The result? Hundreds of viewers called the BBC to find out how they could produce their own spaghetti harvest.

Spaghetti tree harvest


1976 — BBC2 Discovers Lowered Gravity

British Astronomer Patrick Moore teamed up with the BBC2 to pull one of the funniest pranks ever. Viewers were told Moore was a special guest speaker invited to announce a ‘radical new concept.’ On April 1, 1976, Moore announced that at exactly 9:47 a.m., Pluto (considered a planet at the time) would pass behind Jupiter, creating an alignment of the planets. Ultimately, the alignment would counteract the Earth’s gravity and make people weigh less for a short period during the day — he advised viewers to jump in the air to feel the sensation. Hundreds of calls poured in, some confirming the fake phenomenon, including one who claimed to have hit his head on the ceiling.

BBC discovers lowered gravity

So, with all your April Fools’ Day knowledge…what mischievous shenanigans are you going to do today?! Send us your favorite April Fools’ Day stories or plans and we’ll feature our favorite in the comments below!

Sources: Business Insider, Urban Legends, USAToday, Wikipedia

Katie Kellie CockrellKatie and Kellie Cockrell

Obsessed with design, TED.com, fashion (that doesn’t break the bank), entrepreneurship and working occasionally as actresses in Hollywood; we’re twin sisters and best friends on a mission to share things that inspire us and hopefully inspire you too. katieandkellie.com

 

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