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April Fool’s Day; History or a Joke?

“What’s your favorite holiday?”

“Christmas!” or “My birthday!” or “Thanksgiving!”

These are all common answers I hear and you’ve probably heard amongst your friends and family. It took me a bit to develop a real love for April Fools’ Day, but I can finally admit it – April Fools’ Day is my favorite holiday.

I grew up in a household where joking and fun were part of our lives. My dad’s dry sense of humor has been passed on to me (is humor genetic? Maybe so), and April Fools’ Day is a day when that is celebrated. Jokes are the name of the game, and within reason, it can be a day to have fun (that is, if you like jokes, of course). April Fools’ Day was a day when my mom brought Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham to life. Green eggs? We ate them on April Fools’ Day.

But how did April Fools’ Day originate? There are many guesses. My favorite dates back to 1582 (1582!) when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. In the Julian calendar, the new year is celebrated with the spring equinox, around April 1st. The Gregorian calendar is what we use today, where the year starts on January 1st. Those who were the last to know about the switch still celebrated the new year in March/April and were considered to be April fools.1

Take those early origins and look at how it has evolved today. Today it is a day to try to play jokes on your friends, families, or even the general public. There are countless examples of April Fools’ Day pranks gone wrong, but I like to think about the ones that went well. There was that time that I fooled my boss into thinking I had put him down as a reference on job applications, or that other time when as a child, my older brother put plastic wrap on the toilet seat to surprise the rest of us when using the bathroom. Another one I did at the office once was to “install” voice-activated copy machines.

In 1957, a BBC news show reported that farmers in Switzerland were growing spaghetti crops. They even supplied a video. When someone from the public asked how they could also grow their own spaghetti tree, the BBC replied “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”2 And in 1996, Taco Bell played an April Fool’s Day prank on us all by taking out a full page ad announcing their purchase of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, in part to reduce our country’s debt.3 In a world where it seems that everything is being sponsored or advertising rights purchased, The Taco Liberty Bell received media attention and many awards for creativity and believability.

So, on this April Fool’s Day, how are you celebrating?