Mark Twain said, “The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” Christine Miles gives a history of this infamous day of fools.
In 16th-century France, the New Year began on the first day of April.
The New Year was ushered in, in much the same way as it’s done in the 21st century, with festive parties and dancing until late in the night.
In 1562, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world, and the first day of January became New Year’s Day. While the change was readily accepted, some people living in outlying provinces hadn’t heard of it or didn’t believe the change in the date. They continued to celebrate New Year’s Day in April.
Others laughed at them. They sent the unbelievers on “fool’s errands,” aiming to trick them into believing that something false was true. The term “April’s fool” was coined, and to this day the first day of April is an opportunity for practical joking throughout the world.
One of the beauties of April Fools’ jokes is their practicality, with no intention to inflict harm or insult other people. Sometimes the joke seems to require more effort than the end result is worth; sometimes the end result snowballs beyond all expectation.
The citizens of Venice woke on the morning of April 1, 1919, to find piles of horse manure throughout the piazza San Marco, as if a procession of horses had passed during the night. This was extremely unusual since the piazza was surrounded by canals and not easily accessed by horses. The prank turned
out to be the work of infamous British prankster Horace de Vere Cole who, while honeymooning in Venice, transported a load of manure from the mainland via a gondolier the night before and deposited small piles of it throughout the square.
In 1949 Phil Shone, a New Zealand DJ for radio station 1ZB, announced to his listeners that a mile-wide wasp swarm was headed toward Auckland. He urged them to wear their socks over their trousers when they left for work and that they leave honey-smeared traps outside their doors. Hundreds of people dutifully heeded his advice, until he finally admitted that it had all been a joke.
In 1957, the British Broadcasting Corporation aired a report about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland, with footage of farmers pulling pasta off spaghetti trees. The show’s anchor, Richard Dimbleby, attributed the abundance of spaghetti to the mild winter and decline in the spaghetti weevil. Thousands of people called the station to find out how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. The BBC’s answer? “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.” n In 1973, to commemorate the 100- year anniversary of Thomas Cook’s first round-the-world travel tour, the London Times ran a full article about Cook’s 1872 tour, in which it noted that the vacation had cost the participants only 210 guineas, or approximately $575, each. A few pages later, the Times reported that travel agent Thomas Cook was offering 1000 lucky people the chance to buy a similar package deal at 1872 prices. The article noted that applications should be addressed to “Miss Avril Foley.” Huge lines of people formed outside the Thomas Cook offices, and the travel agent was swamped with calls.
Belatedly the Times identified the offer as an April Fools’ joke and apologised for the inconvenience it had caused.
On April 1, 1978, a barge appeared in Sydney Harbour towing a giant iceberg. Sydneysiders were expecting it.
Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman, had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from Antarctica for quite some time. He said he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for 10 cents each.Slowly the iceberg made its way into the harbour.
Local radio stations provided blow-byblow coverage of the scene. Only when the berg was well into the harbour was the secret revealed. Rain began to fall, and the fire-fighting foam and shaving cream that the berg was really made of washed away, uncovering white plastic sheets beneath.
On March 31, 1989, motorists driving on a highway outside London looked up to see a glowing flying saucer. Many of them pulled to the side of the road to watch the bizarre craft float through the air. The saucer finally landed in a field on the outskirts of London. A brave police officer approached the craft with his baton extended before him. When a door in the craft popped open and a small, silver-suited figure emerged, the policeman ran in the opposite direction. The saucer turned out to be a hot-air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the then 36- year-old chairman of Virgin Records. His plan was to land the craft in London’s Hyde Park on April 1. Unfortunately, the wind blew him off course, and he was forced to land a day early in the wrong location.
In 1996, residents all over the US were angered when Taco Bell announced they had purchased the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Liberty Bell and had plans to move it to Irvine, California. People were furious and called the Liberty Bell National Historic Park to express their disgust. A few hours later, Taco Bell sent out a news release announcing the hoax. The marketing ploy resulted in a $US500,000 sales increase for Taco Bell on April 1 and a $600,000 increase on April 2.
In 1998, Burger King introduced the left-handed Whopper, designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans.
According to a full-page newspaper ad, the left-handed Whopper contained all of the same ingredients as the original Whopper, but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of the left-handed customers.
“It’s the ultimate ‘Have it Your Way’ for our left-handed customers,” said Jim Watkins, the restaurant chain’s senior vice-president of marketing. Thousands of customers flocked to the restaurant to order the left-handed Whopper. Others requested their own right-handed version and sales increased substantially for both “versions.” American humorist Mark Twain once said, “The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” Fools. The greatest fool is yet to be decided. Is it the person who instigates the prank, or the person who falls for it?
Fools in the Bible
King Solomon had a reputation for being an exceptionally wise man. He is recognised as the author of the book of Proverbs in the Bible.
Check out what he has to say about fools:
1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
10:18 He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a food.
10:23 A fool finds pleasure in evil confuct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom
12:15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
14:3 A fool’s talk brings a rod to his back, but the lips of the wise protect them.
14:9 Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.
15:21 Folly delights a man who lacks judgement, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course.
19:13 A foolish son is his father’s ruin.
21:20 In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.
26:6 Like cutting off one’s feet or drinking violence is the sending of a message by the hand of a fool.