The Crème de la Crème of Holidays: April 1st

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Lou Costello and Bud Abbott (Who’s On First). Photo found at

Did you know that gravity stopped functioning at precisely 9:47 a.m. in England, 1976, as a result of the alignment of Pluto and Jupiter? And consequently, people began to float (because that’s what happens when gravity takes a well-deserved break)? Yeah, neither did I. Because it never happened.

The aforementioned scheme was one of the most impressive April Fool’s Day jokes in history, pulled off by the BBC and Sir Patrick Moore, an astronomer and television presenter, as they pranked the entirety of Britain to believe that, yes, gravity had hit the pause button.

To no one’s surprise, tens of hundreds of callers telephoned the BBC at 9:48 a.m. to announce that they had momentarily levitated.

While April Fool’s Day serves as a break away from all serious, every-day stresses to have some fun and prank our family and friends, the origin of the holiday itself is a little murky- not in that way.

According to Britannica, the origins of April Fool’s Day or All Fool’s Day are “unknown and unknowable”. A bit suspicious, but we’ll get on with it. The name comes from the tradition of pranking friends and sending them on fool’s errands, while the custom itself is similar to an old Roman festival, Hilaria, and Holi (ends March 31st) in India.

Hilaria (joyful in Latin), celebrated on March 25th by the cult of Cybele, is said to have been influenced by the Egyptian myth of Isis, Osiris, and Seth. The festival consisted of individuals dressing in disguises and then proceeding to mock other citizens (including government officials).

Photo found here.

Holi, in similarity with the Persian festival Sizdah Bedar and the Jewish Purim, falls at the beginning of spring and consists of high spirits, levity, and lightheartedness.

There are several theories that point to the origin of April Fool’s Day in France, as a result of the Edict of Roussillon in August, 1564. Charles IX decided that the new year should begin on January 1st, instead of April 1st as it had previously. Those who still preferred to follow the old calendar were called “April fools”, a consequence of Easter being a lunar holiday and having an adjustable date. (Quick fun fact: in France, the person fooled, i.e., the victim, is called poisson d’avril, or ‘April fish’).

Another funny theory to how April Fool’s Day received its origins revolves around the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). Supposedly, Mother Nature “fooled” everyone with the change in weather.

While most cultures play fun pranks and jokes, Scotland has taken April Fool’s Day to another level. The holiday is celebrated over two days and consists of a hunt for a gowk, (a synonym for cuckoo bird, which in result is a symbol for fools) where people are sent on pretend errands, and Tailie Day, where pranks involving the rear end are enacted (such as pinning fake tails).

The BBC seems to be a master in April Fool’s pranks: in 1957, they televised a short segment of Swiss farmers harvesting pasta strands from their spaghetti trees by pulling down strands of noodles from the branches. A little background: at the time in England, spaghetti was nonnative and extravagant of a delicacy. Several viewers even called the BBC to ask how to grow spaghetti trees, to which the BBC responded with true British humor: “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

Photo found here.

In 1992, the National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” program disclosed that former president Richard Nixon was running for president again. NPR even brought in comedian Rich Little to perform his famous Nixon impression, announcing live on radio, “I never did anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” The public was not amused.

Four years later in 1996, a newspaper reported that Taco Bell had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell”. The White House Press Secretary even added that Ford Motor Company was purchasing the Lincoln Memorial to be renamed the Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

The Irish Times in 1995 published an article announcing that the Walt Disney Corporation was going to purchase Vladimir Lenin’s remains from the Russian government and put them on display at the Euro Disney park. As all Disney characters, the article reported Lenin was going to receive “the full Disney treatment”, with t-shirts and strobe lights.

Whatever the origins of April Fool’s Day are and wherever they may lie, have fun scheming and planning fun pranks, Knights. Remember to strive for the impossible, and watch out for the BBC- they’ll trick you when you least expect it.