April Fools’ Day History

America is one of the safest, most secure nations in the world; however, one day a year many Americans, young and old, fear for their sanity on April Fools’ Day.

Through the years, western cultures have often had a day of tomfoolery and pranking in the year. April Fools’ Day has been celebrated in one form or another since the beginning of the Roman republic. The holiday has been traced to the Roman festival Hilaria, which was a holiday of rejoicing.

Scholars and historians everywhere disagree on the exact origin of April Fools’ Day. A common belief holds that when France changed its calendar over to the Gregorian style, the news was slow to get to the countryside. Ignorant peasants wished their neighbors a ‘Happy New Year’ and were ridiculed for not knowing about the holiday change. They became known as “April Fools” or “Poisson d’Avril” (the April fish).

Traditionally, April Fools’ Day was a time for the lower classes of society to prank their betters and get away with it. While the tradition is still practiced today, adult pranks are becoming increasingly regarded as a nuisance and society as a whole is moving away from individual pranks. However, media sponsored pranks are becoming far more common.

One of the more recent corporate April Fools’ Day pranks was engineered by Taco Bell. In 1996, they announced on April Fools’ Day that they had bought the Liberty Bell from the government to help with the national debt and were now renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Even the White House got in on the joke. They announced that they were planning on attaining corporate sponsors for all of the national monuments including the Ford-sponsored “Lincoln Mercury Memorial.”

Google is infamous for its April Fools Day jokes, and a few years ago it announced the creation of Gmail Blue. In the video, one employee describes it as being exactly the same as Gmail, but blue. Of course it is a coincidence that Microsoft was coming out with Windows Blue (See more Google pranks here: http://www.informationweek.com/cloud/software-as-a-service/12-google-april-fools-day-jokes/d/d-id/1109337?).

Keep a sharp eye out for new pranks this upcoming April Fools’ Day! Have a laugh, enjoy the fun, and make sure you don’t get fooled.


-Mackenzie Brown, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences


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