10 Facts: April Fool’s Day

Today you might be reading some weird and wonderful articles and news stories online. It might seem that you woke up in the middle of an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Just remember that today is the 1st of April (better known as April Fool’s Day). Today’s 10 facts topic is April Fool’s Day. Feel free to comment if you have something to add on this list of facts.

Here are 10 facts about April Fool’s Day:

  • Ancient cultures, including those of the Romans and Hindus, celebrated New Year’s Day on or around April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year.
  • Ancient cultures, including those of the Romans and Hindus, celebrated New Year’s Day on or around April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year.
  • In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian Calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated on the 1st of January. That year, France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year’s day to the 1st of January. According to a popular explanation many people either refused to accept the new date or did not learn about it and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1. Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on “fool’s errands” or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe.
  • There are at least 2 difficulties with the previous explanation. The first is that it doesn’t fully account for the spread of April Fools’ Day to other European countries. The Gregorian calendar was not adopted by England until 1752, for example, but April Fools’ Day was already well established there by that point. The second is that we have no direct historical evidence for this explanation, only conjecture, and that conjecture appears to have been made more recently.
  • Another explanation of the origins of April Fools’ Day was provided by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University in the United States. He explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event. This explanation was brought to the public’s attention in an Associated Press article printed by many newspapers in 1983. There was only one catch: Professor Boskin had made the whole thing up. It took a couple of weeks for the Associated Press to realize that they’d been victims of an April Fools’ joke themselves.
  • On the 1st of April 1996 the Taco Bell Corporation announced it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger. Their nerves were only calmed when Taco Bell revealed, a few hours later, that it was all a practical joke. The best line of the day came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale. Thinking on his feet, he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold. It would now be known, he said, as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
  • On the 1st of April 2008 the BBC announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its natural history series Miracles of Evolution had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. Presenter Terry Jones explained that, instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they “spend the winter basking in the tropical sun.” A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.
  • On the 1st of April 1978 a barge appeared in Sydney Harbor (in Australia) towing a giant iceberg. Sydney residents were expecting it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman (owner of Dick Smith’s Foods), had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently succeeded. He said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for ten cents each. These well-traveled cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to improve the flavor of any drink they cooled. Slowly the iceberg made its way into the harbor. Local radio stations provided excited blow-by-blow coverage of the scene. Only when the berg was well into the harbor was its secret revealed. It started to rain, and the firefighting foam and shaving cream that the berg was really made of washed away, uncovering the white plastic sheets beneath.
  • On April 1, 1915, in the midst of World War I, a French aviator flew over a German camp and dropped what appeared to be a huge bomb. The German soldiers immediately scattered in all directions, but no explosion followed. After some time, the soldiers crept back and gingerly approached the bomb. They discovered it was actually a large football with a note tied to it that read, “April Fool!”
  • On the 1st of April 1980 the BBC reported a proposed change to the famous clock tower known as Big Ben. The reporters stated that the clock would go digital.

Hope you all have an excellent Easter Weekend. Oh yes and Happy April Fool’s Day too! Watch this space for more 10 facts posts.

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Henno Kruger
Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant and co-founder of SA Music Zone
Henno Kruger

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