April 1st is right around the corner and that means practical jokes and plenty of laughs. While you’re busy concocting hoaxes unforeseen by family and friends, you may want to take into account some pranks from the past.
April Fools Day is widely celebrated in Europe, Canada, Australia, Brazil and in the United States, though not an official holiday anywhere. Though the origins of April Fools Day festivities are uncertain, many various cultures around the world have celebrated utter foolishness around the beginning of April, or in adjacent weeks since the 19th century.
For the Romans there was Hilaria, a celebration of the death of winter gloom and the resurrection of Attis, where public sorrow was forbidden and games and amusement were shared. Masquerades proved to be particularly good fun with common-folk striding around town imitating magistrates. Non-Western celebrations offer a similar fun-spirited day of laughter such as India’s Holi, in which Hindi and non-Hindi participants pull pranks and throw colorful dyes at one another. The Jewish calender marks Purim during which everyone adorns brilliant costumes and masquerades during the largest carnival of the year. Iranians rejoice the ancient first day of agricultural activity known as Sizdahbedar on April 1st or 2nd encourages families to get out of the house and enjoy nature, expungingthe year’s bad fortune through laughter, competitive games and pranks. It seems as though despite diversity in culture and international locale, the oncoming Spring gives a common reason for laughter and lighthearted foolishness.
In April of 1697 the public was invited to the Tower of London to witness the “Washing of the Lions” in the moat – an event that fooled hundreds of curious victims into attend an event that would never exist. It became a popular prank for centuries, so much so that hundreds gathered outside the white gates April 1, 1860.
On April Fools Day of 1957 BBC’s flagship news program, Panorama broadcast footage of a Swiss family pulling spaghetti from their tree claiming “[T]here’s nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti”! Hundreds of people phoned in for advice about growing their very own spaghetti trees to which BBC responded, “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best” (McLennan).
April 1, 1978, a large barge towing an enormous, eagerly-awaited iceberg all the way from Antarctica emerged in the Sydney Harbor. Millionaire Dick Smith planned to carve the iceberg into thousands of little ice-cubes and sell them to the public, promising to improve the flavor of any drink instantly. As the iceberg made its slow arrival to dock, local radio station coverage depicted rain washing away the firefighting foam and shaving cream to reveal plastic sheets underneath.
Weather you’ll be celebrating this April Fools Day with an elaborate prank or with a little white lie, we can all agree that budding Spring is an invitation for some light-hearted amusement and tomfoolery! Share your best April Fools pranks with us on our social media – Facebook & Twitter
McLennan, Louisa (10 September 2004). “Fools Gold”. Times Online. Retrieved 2015-03-30.