April Fools’ Day has been around for a long time. In 1700 English pranksters popularized the tradition of playing practical jokes on each other. Some people say that it actually started in 1582 when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as mandated by the Council of Trent in 1563. At that point, people who didn’t get on board with the change, and continued to celebrate the new year during the last week of March through April 1, were laughed at and made fun of, as being gullible.
When I was a kid, my sisters and I took great pleasure trying to fool each other. We tried everything from saying they had a spider in their hair to switching the salt and sugar in the containers. Most of the time they were not fooled, but every once in a while, we were rewarded with a completely shocked sister, or even one who screamed. Historians mentioned things like dressing up in disguises or even that the weather got involved in the whole thing, by the unpredictability of the changing season. I think most of us have been fooled by that one, because we dress warmly in the morning and find ourselves too hot later on, or vise versa. Of course, the weather never sticks to just one day.
During the 18th century, April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain. In Scotland the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands. Gowk is a word for cukoo bird, which is the symbol of a fool. The second day was Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them. I’m beginning to think my sisters and I weren’t very inventive.
These days people have really ramped up the process by using newspapers, radio, TV stations, and web sites to report outrageous fictional claims to fool their audiences. According to History.com, “In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour. In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.”
People are gullible, and some people have a mind that can easily come up with outrageous things. If you are the former type of person, today is going to be a day filled with pranks, because gullible people are well known to those who play on that gullibility. And if you are that prankster, today is your day. Happy April Fools’ Day!! Let the pranking begin, and the gullible people beware!!
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