April Fool’s Day: Where Did it Come From?

National News
April Fool's Day_936919277036194125
Did you get pranked today? It is April Fools’ Day after all.

But have you ever wondered why we play the pranks in the first place?

CNN’s Chris Boyette explains the history of foolery and some of the biggest pranks over the years.

Where did April Fools’ Day come from? Well, the origins are unclear, but one theory ties the unofficial holiday to a shifting calendar.

In ancient cultures, New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1. But in 1582, Pope Gregory the 13th moved the holiday to Jan. 1.

Not everybody got the message. Those that continued to celebrate on April 1 were called April fools. Funny, right?

Much of Britain didn’t adopt the new calendar until 1752. But they were celebrating April Fools’ Day long before that.

In Scotland, it’s a two-day affair.

If you’ve ever had a ‘kick-me’ sign taped to your back, you might blame the Scots. April Fools’ Day has also been linked to the vernal equinox and the start of spring. That’s when the ancient Romans had their hilarious festival of Hilaria. Hindus have Holi, and Purim is celebrated in Judaism.

Some of the biggest April Fools’ Day pranks are courtesy of corporations and the media. In 1940, a press release from the Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia, declared the world would end the following day. They were seeking publicity for a lecture series and a local radio station reported on it.

In 1957, the BBC falsely reported a bumper crop of spaghetti trees in Switzerland.

And in 1998, Burger King announced the left-handed Whopper, specifically designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans, including myself.

Interestingly, Orson Welles’ famous War of the World broadcast, which induced panic in radio audiences, who thought Martians were really invading Earth, was on April Fools’ Day.

April fools! That was in October 1938.

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