History of April Fools' Day

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Foolish as it seems, sometimes it's fun to be the fool. The practical jokes of friends and family can be amusing on April Fools' Day. Of course, most of us still prefer to be the prankster, getting laughs with clever tricks and witty schemes. Prepare early for the next April Fools' Day (perhaps more appropriately known as All Fools' Day) with a few clever joke books; but first, read these fun facts about the holiday.

Origins of April Fools' Day:

  1. You couldn't always trust the calendar. Actually, the exact origins of All Fools Day aren't known, but the most prevalent theory ties the holiday to a 16th-century change in the European calendar. The New Year holiday was observed March 25 to April 1 in the Julian calendar year. The Gregorian calendar, however, moved New Year to January 1st. Many people who either didn't know of the change or didn't care to observe it continued to celebrate the New Year festivities on April 1st. Neighbors teased the holdouts as fools who weren't keeping up with the times.

  2. April Fools' Day had all the characteristics of renewal and fun. The holiday retains the spirit of spring renewal festivals, especially the Roman end-of-winter celebrations. April Fools' is a day of silliness that lifts the spirits after a long, dark winter. As with the day itself, the practice of playing pranks on unsuspecting "fools" evolved in obscurity. Friends played practical jokes on victims or sent them on fool's errands (snipe hunt, anyone?). Then, as now, the jokes were meant to be good-natured.

  3. The victims of pranks became known as April fish. In France, the fool was called "Poisson d'Avril" (April fish), which refers to young fish that are easy to catch. Almost each prank involved a fish, and one common practice was to hook a paper fish on the back of someone as a joke.

  4. Jokes had a time limit. Traditionally, no pranks were to be played after 12 in the afternoon. If someone fell victim to the joke after noon, the perpetrator became the fool and, some believed, the victim of bad luck. Modern-day pranksters don't observe this rule much anymore. Still, if you want to keep with tradition, keep a clock or watch handy.

5 Classic Pranks for April Fools' Day:

  1. The ripped pants: Get a scrap of cloth and place a dollar on the floor. Hide close enough that you can see when someone comes by and bends down to pick up the dollar. Rip the cloth loudly, and the victim will reach back to see if they ripped their pants.

  2. The forgetful coffee lover: Tape magnets to the bottom of an empty coffee cup, and attach it to the top of your car. Laugh at all the people who frantically try to get your attention as you drive by.

  3. The sneaky treat: Everyone loves when someone brings treats into the office, but if you make one treat look like another, you'll surprise lots of people. You can make this one complex, like grilled cheese sandwiches made of cake and frosting, or keep it simple by putting one kind of candy in another candy's bag.

  4. Sticky note coverage: How much can you cover with a few pads of sticky notes? A monitor? A chair? A whole desk? This prank can get a bit expensive, but it's sure to crack people up. Similar pranks include filling a cubicle or office with balloons or covering a desk with packing peanuts.

  5. The biggest fan: Find out which pop musician or movie actor your co-worker thinks is ridiculous and replace all the framed photos on their desk with a picture of the performer. If you can, change the desktop background on their computer to the same image.

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