The history of April Fool jokes and hoaxes is hundreds of years old.
The origin of the day of fools.
No one seems quite sure of the origin, and the stories of its history vary from country to country, with most of them related to changes in the calendar. According to Wilstar.com, the calendar was changed in 1582 in France. The New Year celebrations had ended on April 1, but with the new calendar, the New Year was switched to January 1. Those who didn’t get the word, or didn’t want to make the change, were considered backwards, or fools.
Watch out for kids pranks.
Kids love this holiday, as it is their chance to tease their classmates, by saying, “Your shoe is untied,” or “You have a spider in your hair.” Fooling their parents or teachers takes a little more ingenuity, but even the wary adult can get caught. Adults get into the act with more complicated April Fool projects which can take weeks to set up. The cartoonists from Baby Blues comic strip talked a bunch of cartoonists into swapping places and writing each other’s cartoons for the day on April 1, 1997.
Different countries have different traditions.
The usual pranks vary from country to country, so it is wise to check out the local customs if you happen to be traveling on April 1. The British enjoy any opportunity to indulge their sense of humor, but the April Fool pranks only last until noon, and anyone trying a joke after noon is the fool instead. In Scotland, the jokes can last for two full days. The BBC has a history of fooling its audience on April 1, with serious sounding stories of spaghetti trees and changing the Big Ben clock to a digital face.
Does spaghetti grow on trees?
The famous spaghetti tree joke was perpetrated on the millions in the British television audience in 1957, at a time when pasta and spaghetti were quite unfamiliar to Englishmen. Those who did eat spaghetti got it out of a tin and did not really know where it came from. The BBC showed a film which claimed to show women in Switzerland who were harvesting the crop spaghetti which was hanging from trees. The serious BBC announcer described the process as the women gathered their spaghetti in their wicker baskets. Some of the people had trouble taking a joke when they talked about it at work the next day, commenting on how interesting it was to see how spaghetti grew, and found they’d been fooled by an April Fool prank.
Is that real news, or a joke?
In spite of the reputation of the day, actual news does sometimes take place, but readers and listeners find themselves second-guessing every story. As you listen to the news on April 1, you might think of which stories could be April Fool jokes, and which ones you wish were. A quote in Heinlein, attributed to James Branch Cabell (1879-1958) says, “The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that this is true.” On April Fool’s Day, the pessimist will lament the state of the world today, but the optimist will be hoping to hear the newscaster finish the broadcast saying, “April Fool.”
Sources: Wilstar.com, BBC