Thursday, April 1, 2021

Here at the Library: April Fools'

Here at the Library

 Today is April Fools' Day. The day when practical jokes, hoaxes, tricks and more are considered to be 100% acceptable. Where did the tradition come from? When did it start?
    No one knows when it all began. There are no definitive answers but several possibilities. One is the Greco-Roman festival of Hilaria which included parades, masquerades, and jokes to celebrate the Vernal Equinox.
Festival of Hilaria
Others think that it has to do with the change to the Gregorian Calendar. In the Middle Ages, the new year was celebrated on March 25th with a holiday that ended on April 1st. As the world switched to  the Gregorian Calendar and a 'new' new year on January 1st, some people were slow to get the news. These people continued to celebrate during the last week in March making them the recipients of jokes and pranks. 
    There are a few references to April Fools' Day throughout history. One is by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1392's Canterbury Tales. He writes of a 'vain cock Chauntlceer' being tricked by a fox on March 32nd. We know that there is obviously no March 32nd, so the trick took place on April 1. 
    There are mentions of April Fools' Day in France as early as 1508, however the first certain mention to the 'holiday' comes from a 1561 poem by Eduard DuDene. In the poem, a nobleman sends his servant on many pointless and crazy errands. The servant realizes he has been sent on many 'fool's errands' because it's April 1st.
"The First of April some do say,
   is set apart for All Fool's Day,
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know."

    One of the earliest recorded pranks was in 1698. People of London were told to go to the Tower of London to see the annual washing of the lions. The people showed up, only to realize they'd been tricked. However, the prank worked so well that people kept pulling it year after year- mostly on visitors. 

In more recent history, April Fools' Day has become a large scale day of mischief. From spaghetti growing on trees to a fast food chain buying the Liberty Bell. There are few boundaries for pranks and hoaxes. Take a look at some of the best. 

Swiss Spaghetti Harvest

1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
    On April 1, 1957, British Broadcasting Corporation told viewers there had been an "exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop" in Switzerland, primarily due to the disappearance of the spaghetti weevil. 
    Footage of Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees accompanied the story.

    Many called BBC wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti tree, to this BBC replied: "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

                                               Mt. Edgecumbe, Alaska and Oliver "Porky" Bikar perpetrator of the prank 

2. The Eruption of Mt. Edgecumbe
    In 1974, residents of Sitka, Alaska woke on the morning of April 1 to see a menacing plume of black smoke rising from the top of Mt. Edgecumbe, a long dormant volcano. Residents called local authorities and a Coast Guard chopper was sent to investigate. 
    Stacked in the cone of the crater, burning away, was a huge stack of old tires. Spray-painted in 50 ft high letters: April Fool. 
    This prank was 4 years in the making as Oliver "Porky" Bikar had the idea in 1970. He simply had to wait for the weather to cooperate. The morning of April 1, 1974 broke with clear skies and Porky's plan was on. With the help of a local helicopter pilot, Porky hauled stacks of tires into the crater, lit them afire, and left his message. 

    3. Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell
    In 1996 Taco Bell ran a newspaper advertisement announcing it had purchased the Liberty Bell. A copy of the ad is shown above.
    The ad was met with shock and outrage from the American public.        
    At noon on April 1st, Taco Bell issued a press release confessing the joke. Despite the confession, the company received criticism. Spokesman for the company at the time, Jonathan Blum, offered this defense: "For those who didn't get the joke and care about the bell, just think about how much more recognition we've given it in one day."

One year, I rolled the toothpaste back in the tube and squeezed mustard into it. My children were not amused! April Fools' Day is fun! Do your harmless worst...don't tell my kids but chocolate covered pickles are on the menu this year!

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