april-foolApril Fool’s Day sometimes called All Fools’ Day, is one of the most light-hearted days of the year. Its origins are uncertain. Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calender. It is an informal holiday celebrated every year on April 1. The day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is widely recognized and celebrated as a day which merriment is supposed to reign and pranks, practical jokes, and hoaxes are socially sanctioned. Customary practices range from simple tricks played on friends, family, and coworkers to elaborate media hoaxes concocted for mass consumption.

Theory of origin

The origins of April Fools’ Day are obscure. The most commonly cited theory holds that it dates from about 1582, the year France adopted the Gregorian Calendar, which shifted the observance of New Year’s Day from the end of March to the first of January.

According to popular lore, some folks, out of ignorance, stubbornness, or both, continued to ring in the New Year on April 1 and were made the butt of jokes and pranks on account of their foolishness. This became an annual tradition which ultimately spread throughout Europe and other parts of the world.

Notable April Fools’ Day Pranks

Some of the best-known pranks in more recent years have been mounted by advertising agencies. In 1996, Taco Bell ran a full page ad in the New York Times announcing it had purchased the Liberty Bell and would rename it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” Burger King pulled off a similar prank in 1998, announcing the rollout of its “Left Handed Whopper” supposedly designed so that condiments would drip from the right side of the burger rather than the left.

On the Internet, hoaxes are such standard fare that April Fools’ Day is barely distinguishable from any other, though a few notable pranks stand out and tend to be reposted year after year — e.g., a 1996-vintage announcement to the effect that every computer connected to the World Wide Web must be turned off and disconnected for Internet cleaning Day, a 24-hour period during which useless “flotsam and jetsam” are flushed from the system.

As dearly as we hold the tradition of making fools of the people we care about, there’s little more than theories about where April Fools’ Day came from. Figuring out the origins of the holiday can be as tricky as getting to the source of a joke.

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