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April Fools' Day

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April Fools' Day

April Fools' Day
An "April Fools' Day" hoax marking the construction of the Copenhagen Metro in 2001
Also called Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Type Cultural, Western
Significance Practical pranks
Observances Comedy
Date April 1
Next time 1 April 2015 (2015-04-01)
Frequency annual

April Fools' Day (sometimes called April Fool's Day or All Fools' Day) is celebrated every year on the first day of April. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in Europe, Australia, Brazil and the United States, and it is celebrated as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. The jokes and their victims are known as "April fools". Hoax stories may be reported by the press and other media on this day and explained on subsequent days.

The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (1392). Many writers suggest that the restoration of 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.

Contents

  • Origins 1
  • Longstanding customs 2
    • United Kingdom 2.1
    • Ireland 2.2
    • Poland 2.3
    • Norway, Denmark and Sweden 2.4
    • April fish 2.5
  • April Fools' Day pranks 3
  • Comparable prank days 4
  • Reception 5
  • Cultural references 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10

Origins

An 1857 ticket to "Washing the Lions" at the Tower of London in London. No such event ever took place.

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one's neighbor is recognized everywhere.[1] Some precursors of April Fools' Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria,[2] the Holi festival of India,[3] and the Medieval Feast of Fools.[4]

In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392), the "Nun's Priest's Tale" is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two.[5] Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon.[6] Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. May 2,[7] the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean "March 32", i.e. April 1.[8] In Chaucer's tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

In 1508, French poet Eloy d'Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "April fish"), a possible reference to the holiday.[9] In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1.[7] In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as "Fooles holy day", the first British reference.[7] On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed".[7]

In the Middle Ages, New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25 in most European towns.[10] In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on April 1.[2][4] Some writers suggest that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on the January 1 made fun of those who celebrated on other dates.[2] The use of the January 1 as New Year's Day was common in France by the mid-16th century,[7] and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

Longstanding customs

An April Fools' Day prank of a purported new design for three level city bus, from an April 1926 issue of the company newspaper Echo Continental, published by the Continental Rubber Works Hannover AG company

United Kingdom

In the UK, an April fool joke is revealed by shouting "April fool!" at the recipient, who becomes the "April fool". A study in the 1950s, by folklorists Iona and Peter Opie, found that in the UK, and in countries whose traditions derived from the UK, the joking ceased at midday.[11] A person playing a joke after midday is the "April fool" themselves.[12]

In Scotland, April Fools' Day is traditionally called 'Huntigowk Day',[11] a corruption of 'Hunt the Gowk', ("gowk" is Scots for a cuckoo or a foolish person; Là na Gocaireachd 'gowking day' or Là Ruith na Cuthaige 'the day of running the cuckoo' in Gaelic), 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.[11]

Ireland

In Ireland it was traditional to entrust the victim with an "important letter" to be given to a named person. That person would then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter when finally opened contained the words "send the fool further".[13]

Poland

In Poland, prima aprilis ("1 April" 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.[14]

Norway, Denmark and Sweden

Norwegians, Danes and Swedes celebrate April Fools' Day (aprilsnar in Danish). Most news media outlets will publish exactly one false story on April 1; for newspapers this will typically be a first-page article but not the top headline.[15]

April fish

In Italy, France, Belgium, and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, April 1 tradition is often known as "April fish" (poissons d'avril in French or pesce d'aprile in Italian). This includes attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed. Such fish feature prominently on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools' Day postcards.

April Fools' Day pranks

As well as people playing pranks on one another on April Fools' Day, elaborate practical jokes have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, web sites, and have been performed by large corporations. In one famous prank from 1957, the BBC broadcast a fake film of Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC were later flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a prank on the news the next day.[16] With the advent of the internet and readily available global news services, April Fool's pranks can catch and embarrass a wider audience than ever before.[17]

Comparable prank days

December 28, the equivalent day in Spain and the Hispanic America, is also the Christian day of celebration of the "Day of the Holy 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 Mexico, the phrase is ¡Inocente para siempre! which means "Innocent forever!". In Argentina, the prankster says ¡Que la inocencia te valga!, which roughly translates as a piece of advice on not to be as gullible as the victim of the prank. In Spain, it is common to say just ¡Inocente! (which in Spanish can mean "Innocent!", but also "Gullible!"). Nevertheless, on the Spanish island of Minorca, Dia d'enganyar ("Fooling day") is celebrated on April 1 because Menorca was a British possession during part of the 18th century. In Brazil, the "Dia da mentira" ("Day of the lie") is also celebrated on April 1.[18]

Reception

The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial.[12][19] The mixed opinions of critics are epitomised in the reception to the 1957 BBC "Spaghetti-tree hoax", in reference to which, newspapers were split over whether it was "a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public".[20]

The positive view is that April Fools can be good for one's health because it encourages "jokes, hoaxes...pranks, [and] belly laughs", and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart.[21] There are many "best of" April Fools' Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the holiday is celebrated.[22] Various April Fools campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort – especially those from the major corporations such as Google and Apple.

The negative view describes April Fools hoaxes as "creepy and manipulative", "rude" and "a little bit nasty", as well as based on schadenfreude and deceit.[19] When genuine news is published on April Fools' Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke -- for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools' Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4 MB or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright.[23][24] On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion;[25] misinformation; waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger); even legal or commercial consequences.[26][27]

Cultural references

Books, films, telemovies and television episodes have used April Fool's Day as their title or inspiration.[28][29]

See also

References

  1. ^ Bonner, John; Curtis, George William; Alden, Henry Mills; Samuel Stillman Conant, John Foord, Montgomery Schuyler, John Kendrick Bangs, Richard Harding Davis, Carl Schurz, George Brinton McClellan Harvey, Henry Loomis Nelson, Norman Hapgood (1908). Harper's Weekly. Harper's Magazine Company. p. 6. 
  2. ^ a b c "April Fools' Day".  
  3. ^ Brand, John (1725, R&T edition 1905). Brand's Popular Antiquities of Great Britain I. London: Reeves and Turner. p. 12. 
  4. ^ a b Santino, Jack (1972). All around the year: holidays and celebrations in American life.  
  5. ^ The Canterbury Tales, "The Nun's Priest's Tale" - "Chaucer in the Twenty-First Century", University of Maine at Machias, September 21, 2007
  6. ^ Carol Poster, Richard J. Utz, Disputatio: an international transdisciplinary journal of the late middle ages, Volume 2, pp. 16-17 (1997).
  7. ^ a b c d e Boese, Alex (2008) "April Fools Day – Origin" Museum of Hoaxes
  8. ^ Compare to Valentine's Day, a holiday that originated with a similar misunderstanding of Chaucer.
  9. ^ Eloy d'Amerval, Le Livre de la Deablerie, Librairie Droz, p. 70. (1991). "De maint homme et de mainte fame, poisson d'Apvril vien tost a moy."
  10. ^ Groves, Marsha, Manners and Customs in the Middle Ages, p. 27, 2005.
  11. ^ a b c Opie, Iona & Peter (1960). The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren.  
  12. ^ a b Archie Bland (April 1, 2009). "The Big Question: How did the April Fool's Day tradition begin, and what are the best tricks?".  
  13. ^ Haggerty, Bridget. "April Fool's Day". Irish Culture and Customs. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Origin of April Fools’ Day". The Express Tribune. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  15. ^ "April Fool’s Day: 8 Interesting Things And Hoaxes You Didn't Know". International Business Times. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Swiss Spaghetti Harvest". Retrieved November 2013. 
  17. ^ Moran, Rob (4 April 2014). "NPR’s Brilliant April Fools’ Day Prank Was Sadly Lost On Much Of The Internet". Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  18. ^ "Avui és el Dia d'Enganyar a Menorca" [Today is Fooling Day on Minorca] (in  
  19. ^ a b Doll, Jen (2013-04-01). "Is April Fools' Day the Worst Holiday? – Yahoo News". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  20. ^ "Is this the best April Fool's ever?". BBC. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  21. ^ "Why April Fools’ Day is Good For Your Health – Health News and Views". News.Health.com. 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  22. ^ "April Fools: the best online pranks | SBS News". Sbs.com.au. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  23. ^ Harry McCracken (1 April 2013). "Google’s Greatest April Fools’ Hoax Ever (Hint: It Wasn’t a Hoax)".  
  24. ^ Lisa Baertlein (1 April 2004). "Google: 'Gmail' no joke, but lunar jobs are". Reuters. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  25. ^ Woods, Michael (2013-04-02). "Brazeau tweets his resignation on April Fool’s Day, causing confusion – National". Globalnews.ca. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  26. ^ Hasham, Nicole (3 April 2013). "ASIC to look into prank Metgasco email from schoolgirl Kudra Falla-Ricketts". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  27. ^ "Justin Bieber's Believe album hijacked by DJ Paz". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 April 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  28. ^ For example,  
  29. ^ IMDb listing of April Fools' Day films

Further reading

  • Wainwright, Martin (2007). The Guardian Book of April Fool's Day. Aurum. ISBN 1-84513-155-X

External links

  • "Top 100 April Fools' Day hoaxes of all time".  
  • "April Fools' Day On The Web: List of all known April Fools' Day Jokes websites from 2004 until present". 
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