Friday, April 1, 2011



April Fools' Day
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April Fools' Day

April 1, 2001, in Denmark, regarding Copenhagen's new metro

Also called All Fools' Day
Type Non religious, cultural
Significance Practical pranks
Date April 1
Observances Humor

April Fools' Day is celebrated all around the world on the April 1 of every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools' Day, April 1 is not a national holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day where everyone plays all kinds of jokes and foolishness. The day is marked by the commission of good humoured or funny jokes, hoaxes, and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, teachers, neighbors, work associates, etc.

Traditionally, in some countries such as New Zealand, Ireland, the UK, Australia, and South Africa, the jokes only last until noon, and someone who plays a trick after noon is called an "April Fool".[1]

Elsewhere, such as in France, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S., the jokes last all day. The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392). Many writers suggest that the restoration of the January 1 as New Year's Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.


A ticket to "Washing the Lions" in London from 1857. This traditional April Fools prank is first recorded in 1698.

In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392), the "Nun's Priest's Tale" is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two.[2] Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon.[3] Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. May 2,[4] the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. However, readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean "32nd of March," i.e. 1st April.[5] In Chaucer's tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In 1509, a French poet referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "April fish"), a possible reference to the holiday.[4] In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on the 1st of April.[4] In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as "Fooles holy day", the first British reference.[4] On 1st April, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed".[4] The name "April Fools" echoes that of the Feast of Fools, a Medieval holiday held on the 28th December.[6]

In the Middle Ages, New Year's Day was celebrated on the 25th of March in most European towns.[7] In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on the 1st of April.[6] So it is possible that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on the 1st of January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates.[8] The use of the 1st of January as New Year's Day was common in France by the mid-sixteenth century,[4] and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

In the eighteenth century, the festival was often posited as going back to the time of Noah. According to an English newspaper article published in 1789, the day had its origin when Noah sent his dove off too early, before the waters had receded; he did this on the first day of the Hebrew month that corresponds with April.[9]

By radio stations

  • Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect: In 1976, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47 a.m. that day. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience "a strange floating sensation". Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked.[17]
  • Space Shuttle lands in San Diego: In 1993, DJ Dave Rickards told listeners of KGB-FM in San Diego that Space Shuttle Discovery had been diverted from Edwards Air Force Base and would be landing at Montgomery Field, a small municipal airport with a 4,577 foot runway. Thousands of people went to the airport to watch the purported landing, causing traffic jams throughout Kearny Mesa.[18] Moreover, there wasn't even a shuttle in orbit at the time.[19]
  • Death of a mayor: In 1998, local WAAF shock jocks Opie and Anthony reported that Boston mayor Thomas Menino had been killed in a car accident. Menino happened to be on a flight at the time, lending credence to the prank as he could not be reached. The rumor spread quickly across the city, eventually causing news stations to issue alerts denying the hoax. The pair were fired shortly thereafter.[20]
  • Phone call: In 1998, UK presenter Nic Tuff of West Midlands radio station pretended to be the British Prime Minister Tony Blair when he called the then South African President Nelson Mandela for a chat. It was only at the end of the call when Nic asked Nelson what he was doing for April Fools' Day that the line went dead.[21]
  • BBC Radio 4 (2005): The Today Programme announced in the news that the long-running serial The Archers had changed their theme tune to an upbeat disco style.[22]
  • National Public Radio: Every year, National Public Radio in the United States does an extensive news story on April 1. These usually start off more or less reasonably, and get more and more unusual. A recent example is the story on the "iBod," a portable body control device.[23] In 2008 it reported that the IRS, to assure rebate checks were actually spent, was shipping consumer products instead of checks.[24] It also runs false sponsor mentions, such as "Support for NPR comes from the Soylent Corporation, manufacturing protein-rich food products in a variety of colors. Soylent Green is People".[25]
  • Three-dollar coin: In 2008, the CBC Radio program As It Happens interviewed a Royal Canadian Mint spokesman who broke "news" of plans to replace the Canadian five-dollar bill with a three-dollar coin. The coin was dubbed a "threenie", in line with the nicknames of the country's one-dollar coin (commonly called a "loonie" due to its depiction of a common loon on the reverse) and two-dollar coin ("toonie").[26]
  • Country to metal: Country and gospel WIXE in Monroe, North Carolina does a prank every year. In 2009, midday host Bob Rogers announced he was changing his show to heavy metal. This resulted in numerous phone calls, but about half were from listeners wanting to request a song.[27]
  • U2 live on rooftop in Cork: In 2009, hundreds of U2 fans were duped in an elaborate prank when they rushed to a shopping centre in Cork believing that the band were playing a surprise rooftop concert. The prank was organised by Cork radio station RedFM. The band were in fact just a tribute band called U2opia.[28]
  • Cellphone ban: In New Zealand, the radio station The Edge's Morning Madhouse enlisted the help of the Prime Minister on April 1st to inform the entire country that cellphones are to be banned in New Zealand. Hundreds of callers rang in disgruntled at the new law.[citation needed]

Real news on April Fools' Day

The frequency of April Fools' hoaxes sometimes makes people doubt real news stories released on April 1.

  • The April 1, 1946 Aleutian Island earthquake tsunami that killed 165 people in Hawaii and Alaska resulted in the creation of a tsunami warning system, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, established in 1949 for Pacific Ocean countries. The tsunami in question is known in Hawaii as the "April Fools' Day Tsunami" due to people drowning because of the assumptions that the warnings were an April Fools' prank.
  • The death of King George II of Greece was on April 1, 1947.
  • The AMC Gremlin was first introduced on April 1, 1970.[77]
  • In 1979, Iran declared April 1 its national Republic Day. Thirty-one years on, this continues to be mistaken for a joke.[78]
  • On April 1, 1984, singer Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father. Originally, people assumed that it was a fake news story, especially considering the bizarre aspect of the father being the murderer.
  • On April 1, 1991, news emerged that David Icke, the British sports reporter, had announced that he was the son of God and that the world was about to end in an apocalypse. Not surprisingly, many people took the reports as an April Fool. Icke has, however, continued to expound his views.
  • On April 1, 1993, NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion Alan Kulwicki was killed in a plane crash involving Hooters of America executives in Blountville, Tennessee near the Tri-Cities Airport. The party were travelling to the Food City 500 qualifying scheduled for the next day.
  • The suicide death of Deathrock legend Rozz Williams was on April 1, 1998.
  • On April 1, 1999, the Canadian Northwest Territories was split, and the territory now known as Nunavut came to be.
  • On April 1, 2002, WWE Raw changed logos.
  • The merger of Square and its rival company, Enix, took place on April 1, 2003, and was originally thought to be a joke.
  • Leslie Cheung, a famous singer and actor from Hong Kong, committed suicide in 2003 due to severe depression.
  • Gmail's April 1, 2004 launch was widely believed to be a prank, as Google traditionally perpetrates April Fools' Day hoaxes each April 1, and the announced 1GB online storage was at the time vastly more than existing online email services (see Google's hoaxes.) Another Google-related event that turned out not to be a hoax occurred on April 1, 2007, when employees at Google's New York City office were alerted that a ball python kept in an engineer's cubicle had escaped and was on the loose. An internal e-mail acknowledged that "the timing…could not be more awkward" but that the snake's escape was in fact an actual occurrence and not a prank.[79]
  • The 2005 death of comedian Mitch Hedberg was originally dismissed as an April Fools' joke. The comedian's March 29, 2005 death was announced on March 31, but many newspapers did not carry the story until April 1, 2005.
  • On April 1, 2007, the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book came out.
  • British sprinter Dwain Chambers joined English rugby league team Castleford Tigers shortly before April 1, 2008. The athlete was attempting a return to top flight athletics at the time following a high profile drugs ban, and his apparent unfamiliarity with rugby led many people to assume this was an April Fools' Day prank.
  • On April 1, 2008, it was reported that UEFA would require the Swedish fast food chain Max to close their restaurant at the Borås Arena during the European Under-21 Football Championship due to a conflict with official sponsor McDonald's and a requirement that only official sponsors may operate around the arena. The arena was later replaced as a tournament site.[80]
  • On April 1, 2008, Persch announced that the GNOME desktop web browser EpiphanyMozilla's Gecko engine to the WebKit engine used by Safari and KDE's equivalent application Konqueror.[81] would be switched from
  • On April 1, 2009, Alan Shearer became caretaker manager of Newcastle United.
  • On April 1, 2009, CBS announced the cancellation of the daytime drama Guiding Light after 72 years, with the final episode airing September 18, 2009.
  • Also, on April 1, 2009, a Virus/Worm called Conficker was released in December 2008 but reports about its spread to millions of computers, releasing personal info and deleting files came out on April 1st. This was supposed to be a joke, but random computers throughout America were hit. Before this happened, news media like NBC, Fox News, ABC and CBSfirewalls and updates to their Windows computers before it hit.[citation needed] told the viewers to install
  • On April 1, 2010, Sony Computer Entertainment released Firmware 3.21 for the Sony PlayStation 3. This firmware disabled the "Other OS" feature on all PlayStation 3 models. The "Other OS" feature had allowed customers to use the PlayStation 3 as a full fledged computer running Linux. Because the "upgrade" occurred on April 1, many people thought that it was a joke.[82]
  • On April 1, 2010, Charlie Sheen announced he was considering leaving Two and a Half Men.

Other prank days in the world

Iranians play jokes on each other on the 13th day of the Persian new year (Norouz), which falls on April 1 or April 2. This day, celebrated as far back as 536 BC, is called Sizdah Bedar and is the oldest prank-tradition in the world still alive today; this fact has led many to believe that April Fools' Day has its origins in this tradition.[83]

The April 1 tradition in France and French-speaking Canada includes poisson d'avril (literally "April's fish"), attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed. This is also widespread in other nations, such as Italy, where the term Pesce d'aprile (literally "April's fish") is also used to refer to any jokes done during the day. In Spanish-speaking countries, similar pranks are practiced on December 28, día de los Santos Inocentes, the "Day of the Holy Innocents". This custom also exists in certain areas of Belgium, including the province of Antwerp. The Flemish tradition is for children to lock out their parents or teachers, only letting them in if they promise to bring treats the same evening or the next day.

Under the Joseon dynasty of Korea, the royal family and courtiers were allowed to lie and fool each other, regardless of their hierarchy, on the first snowy day of the year. They would stuff snow inside bowls and send it to the victim of the prank with fake excuses. The recipient of the snow was thought to be a loser in the game and had to grant a wish of the sender. Because pranks were not deliberately planned, they were harmless and were often done as benevolence[citation needed] towards royal servants.

In Poland, prima aprilis ("April 1" in Latin) is a day full of jokes; various hoaxes are prepared by people, media (which sometimes cooperate to make the "information" more credible) and even public institutions. Serious activities are usually avoided. This conviction is so strong that the anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I signed on April 1, 1683, was backdated to March 31.

In Scotland, April Fools' Day is traditionally called Hunt-the-Gowk Day ("gowk" is Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person), although this name has fallen into disuse. The traditional prank is to ask someone to deliver a sealed message requesting help of some sort. In fact, the message reads "Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gowk another mile". The recipient, upon reading it, will explain he can only help if he first contacts another person, and sends the victim to this person with an identical message, with the same result.

In Denmark, the 1st of May is known as "Maj-kat", meaning "May-cat", and is historically identical to April Fools' Day. However, Danes also celebrate April Fools' Day ("aprilsnar"), and pranks on May 1, are much less frequent.

In Spain and Ibero-America, an equivalent date is December 28, Christian day of celebration of the Massacre of the Innocents. The Christian celebration is a holiday in its own right, a religious one, but the tradition of pranks is not, though the latter is observed yearly. After somebody plays a joke or a prank on somebody else, the joker usually cries out, in some regions of Ibero-America: "Inocente palomita que te dejaste engañar" ("You innocent little dove that let yourself be fooled"). In Spain, it is common to say just "Inocente!" ("Innocent!"). Nevertheless, in the Spanish island of Menorca, "Dia d'enganyar" ("Fooling day") is celebrated on the 1st of April because Menorca was a British possession during part of the 18th century.[citation needed]

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