Happy April Fool’s Day

“Laughter is the Best Medicine” – Especially on April Fool’s Day

Do you remember the last practical joke you received or played on an unsuspecting friend or family member?  Do you recall the last time you experienced ‘asbestos gelos’ (unquenchable laughter)? Well, there exists one day on the calendar which allows those of us who enjoy a good-hearted joke and a genuine belly-roll  of a laugh at the expense of another, April Fool’s Day.    If you haven’t ‘celebrated’ this day, you can make plans to become part of an annual tradition that dates back to the Roman Era.

The origins of pranking are a bit mysterious, but the idea of setting aside a day (or two) for All Fool’s Day has occurred in different cultures over many centuries.  An ancient festival known as Hilaria was celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. When the Council of Trent (France) in 1583 switched from the Julian calendar (new year started last week of March-April 1st) to the Gregorian calendar (new year starting January 1), many people were slow to catch on. Those people became the ‘fool’ or ‘poisson d’avril’ (April fish) which included having a paper fish pinned on their backs.  Some might recall this being  similar to the “kick me” signs placed on backs of unsuspecting students in elementary school!  Some historians attribute this celebration to the British which gained popularity during the 18th century. Not to be outdone by the Brits, the Scots tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird, a symbol for fool) and followed by Taillie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails on them. In the 19th century, it was considered a children’s celebration in Europe and North America or a day of mischievous deeds. The tradition of trickery continues on today.

Some of the more memorable craziness of the Day can be linked to the creativity of the media.  Journalists, radio and television stations, web sites, and now social media sites.  Here are a just a few examples of how audiences were ‘fooled;’ BBC reported in 1957 that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop, Sports Illustrated in 1985 wrote an article about a baseball player who could throw a 168 mph baseball, Taco Bell, in a 1996 ad, had purchased the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and were renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell, and to top it off in 1998 Burger King advertised a ‘Left-Handed Whopper,” and people actually visited their local Burger King and ordered the sandwich. Ordering up a sandwich that doesn’t exist is as good as ordering up a forecast that doesn’t produce.

Alex Boese, author of The Museum of Hoaxes: A History of Outrageous Pranks and Deceptions, speculates that the holiday probably originated as a festival to celebrate the vernal equinox. As history has shown, springtime weather does brings out playful and mischievous behavior in adults and children.  In the Northern Hemisphere when the calendar date says it’s spring, we can be doubly fooled –  pranksters and Mother Nature. This is a common occurrence in our fair city of Denver, Colorado where one day it is 75 degrees and the next snow – always changing and unpredictable. That’s what April Fool’s is really about – changing normal to unpredictable. The author, Alex Boese, goes on to add this day allows people to misbehave and break social rules for one day and reinforces the social order.  Just a simple “glimpse of what chaos would look like reminds everyone why they need to behave for the rest of the year.” So, go ahead and see what playful chaos you can dream up for April 1.  The Green Team at Creek Side would love to hear how you celebrated.