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April Fools' Day Origin And Famous Pranks

Updated on March 15, 2018
Sudhir Devapalan profile image

I am a front-end developer by profession, but I enjoy writing articles about anything mysterious, interesting and fascinating.

April fools day has been around for a very long time. It is the most fun-filled and crazy day of the whole year with a lot of possibilities. But the origin of it has been a mystery and we still do not know when and how it started for sure. But there are a few theories which suggest its origin.

Fools' Day:

April Fool's day is celebrated on April 1 each year. This day is celebrated by playing practical jokes on people and spreading hoaxes. The celebration of April Fools' Day or All Fools' day is popular throughout the world. Although this is a popular day in many countries, it is not a public holiday.


Though the celebration of April Fool's day is widespread, its origin is still not very clear. There are a number of possibilities and it is still debated on which is right.

New Year on April 1st:

Before 1582, the old Julian Calendar was being followed in Europe. In this Calendar the new year happened to fall on April 1st. However, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII ordered that a new Calendar should be followed which was the Gregorian Calendar. In this new Calendar, New year was celebrated on the 1st of January.

The same year, France decided to shift to the Gregorian Calendar as well. This was not welcomed by all its citizens and some didn't know about the same. This meant that many people still followed the old Julian Calendar and celebrated the New Year on 1st of April. They were often ridiculed by others and tricked into believing something which is a joke hence giving rise to April Fools' day.

This, however, does not explain why the celebration of April Fools' day was so widespread among all of Europe. The Georgian Calendar was also not adopted by England until 1752. Yet All Fool's day was celebrated in England by that time. There is also no solid evidence to support this claim.

Some people speculate that the origin of April Fools' day could be traced to Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales from 1392. In "The Nun's Priest's Tale", a fox tricks a rooster on "syn March bigan thritty dayes and two". This was translated as March 32 which is April 1st.


There is also a belief that this day is to celebrate the turning of seasons. There are many cultures who celebrate the turning of seasons during the period of April. The Romans celebrated Hilaria on March 25. The Hindus also celebrate Holi to welcome the arrival of spring.

Reference in the Bible:

It is even possible that April Fools' day could date as way back as during the period of Noah. In the chapter of Genesis Noah made the mistake of sending a dove outside the ark on April 1 before the water had receded. Some say that this might have been the first "fool's errand" which would have been given as a punishment.

Famous Pranks:

There are various pranks which can be done on people. Pranks are usually done to target a single person or a group. Some, however, take this to the next level. Here are some pranks and hoaxes which have become famous in the history of April Fools' day.

The Swiss Spaghetti Trees:

On April 1st, 1957, the BBC current affairs programme called Panorama telecast a three-minute hoax report. The report was about how a family in Switzerland was harvesting spaghetti from their family 'spaghetti tree'. Since spaghetti was relatively new during that period, many people in the UK did not know about it. As a result, BBC received a number of calls from viewers on how to grow these 'spaghetti trees'. This was one of the biggest hoaxes pulled off by a reputable news agency.

The Washing of the Lions:

The Washing of the Lions was a common prank pulled off at the Tower of London. This has been prevalent since 1698. Unsuspecting victims will be sent an invitation to the Tower of London on the first of April for the annual lion-washing ceremony. There was, however, no such ceremony. Another version of this joke also asked the victims to seek entrance through the 'white gate' and there was no such gate as well.

The Dud:

April Fools' day seems to lighten the mood even during times of war. On April 1st, 1915, a French WW1 pilot flew over enemy lines and dropped what appeared to be a bomb. This led the German soldiers stationed there to scatter in panic. However, the bomb didn't explode. On closer inspection, it was revealed that it was just a football with the message, “April Fool!”.

Special Food for the Left Handed:

In 1998 Burger King came up with an excellent prank. They said that they had created a "Left-handed Whopper". This was specially created for left-handed people with all the ingredients rotated 180 degrees just for them! With such advertising, many people started ordering the new burger all over.

© 2018 Random Thoughts


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