By the time Spring arrives, people are naturally over the cold and sometimes depressing Winter months. When April 1st arrives, hopefully bringing with it, sunshine and warmer temperatures, pranks seem to just pop into our heads. We need a laugh, and the good-natured pranking of our friends is a great way to get that laugh. People have pranked their friends and family in many ways. The ways are really as diverse as the prankster. My sisters and I, when we were little, did all the kid pranks, like “there’s a spider in your hair” or exchanging the salt for the sugar. Other people go all out, like telling someone their car was stolen or placing a rubber snake in their bed. I suppose some pranks can be a little over the top, and can even backfire on the prankster, but most are done good naturedly, and are taken as such. Of course, the best part for the prankster is yelling, “April Fool” to their victim.
As traditions go, some stand out more than others. In the United Kingdom, it is tradition that all pranks stopped at noon. This continues to be the custom, with the pranking ceasing at noon, after which time it is no longer acceptable to play pranks. So, a person who didn’t watch the time, an playing a prank after midday is considered the “April fool” themselves. In Ireland, it is more of a “fools errand.” The prankster entrusts the victim with an “important letter” to be given to a named person. That person would read the letter, then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter, when opened contained the words “send the fool further” and then the victim knew he had been had. I can’t say that would be a traditional joke, because the word would get around pretty quickly, and then it wouldn’t work.
April Fools’ Day isn’t just for individuals either. On April Fools’ Day, elaborate pranks have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, and websites, and have been performed by large corporations. One of the more famous pranks was in 1957, the BBC broadcast a film in their Panorama current affairs series purporting to show Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC was soon flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day. A good prankster could come up with similar pranks for the media to use, and now with the Internet and readily available global news services, April Fools’ pranks can catch and embarrass more people than ever before. It’s the one day that “fake news” can be fake and it’s ok. Happy April Fools’ Day to all the pranksters out there. Have fun, and watch the time so you don’t wind up being the “fool” indeed.