Thursday, April 1, 2010

An April fool as it were

April Fools' Day is not a holiday celebrated by the government or schools or places of business, but it has become a staple in the lives of the individual. Each April 1st, thousands, possibly millions of pranksters are pulling jokes on unsuspecting victims. Some people prepare themselves, some people are taken off guard, some people enjoy the day, others hide out and wait for April 2nd. No matter how you respond to this day, the origins of what has become known as April Fool's Day (or All Fools' Day) are murky at best.

One of the most common suggestions has to do with the Julian-Gregorian calendar shift of the Western world. The Julian calendar year started on March 25th, which falls during holy week, so often the new year was celebrated on April 1st. However, with the switch to the Gregorian calendar in the 1500s, the beginning of the year was celebrated on January 1st.

According to Snopes, the most common theory about the April Fool moniker comes from this time. It is said that people who could still be tricked into believing that the beginning of the year was on April 1st were called April Fools.

You can check out Snopes for a few other ideas about the origins of April Fools' Day.

While this isn't a national or worldwide holiday, some companies do take advantage of the gullibility of others. Radio stations, newspapers (such as a British grocery store placing ads for a "pinana," a cross between a banana and a pineapple), television (BBC's hoax story about the Swiss spaghetti crops) and even Google seem to do a yearly prank.

Last year was booking trips to Mars and Google unveiled the autopilot feature that would automatically read and respond to emails in your Gmail box. With the popularity of the Internet, it has put a whole new spin on the April prank. Last year also showed YouTube's pages being upside down, and the expected emergence of the Conficker worm (a much more malicious "prank" than any of the others).

Here is a site where you can see memorable pranks by year.
Here is a list of classic April Fools' Day pranks anyone can do.
Here is a list of the top 100 famous (or possibly infamous) pranks throughout history.
Or you can check out this clip from an April Fools' Day episode of The Simpsons: