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April is famous for its spaghetti harvest

March 2019

Fresh spaghetti
Spaghetti heads the list of good April Fools pranks

It was 60 years ago that the BBC broadcast its famous Panorama episode of the Italian spaghetti harvest. It created a sensation at the time, when April Fool’s day was more celebrated than now, and it can still be seen on YouTube.

April Fool’s Day, or April 1st, is definitely one of the more lighthearted events in the calendar, and good jokes can still be found, from footage of flying penguins to Burger King’s advert for left handed whoppers.

But how did the idea of playing jokes on the first day of April ever begin?

There appears no definite answer, but generally it is thought that the day evolved from celebrations marking the beginning of spring, a light hearted time when the weather improves and life can become easier. Other cultures have celebrations at similar times of the year, such as the ancient Romans’ Hilaria at the end of March and the Hindu festival Holi, celebrating the arrival of spring.

There is some thought that the idea of playing tricks in early April came from  Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, when a fox tricks a proud rooster.

One explanation is that in 1582, when Pope Gregory XIII ordered the use the new Gregorian calendar that showed New Year’s Day on January 1st. Some people, who had been celebrating New Year’s Day on April 1st, refused to change and became known as April Fools.

This explanation however has problems because the Gregorian calendar was not adopted in England until 1752, when April Fools’ Day was already established.

Whatever the origins, the idea of playing pranks on April 1st spread fast and is still celebrated around the world in different forms.

In France for instance, people sneak up and stick a paper fish to someone’s back. When the prank is discovered, instead of April Fool, the call is Poisson d’Avril, or April fish! Italian children have also taken to this idea, but with an Italian version for the call of April Fool.

In Greece, playing a good trick on someone on April 1st is regarded as lucky, ensuring the perpetrator will have a good year of crops, or good rainfall for their plants, or similar good fortune.

In Brazil the day is known as the dia de mentira meaning the day of the lie. Media will put out crazy headlines or silly stories, and people will make up funny stories for their relations or friends.

The Polish celebrate the day with similar tricks and false news reports, and the catchline called out here is longer, meaning...”April Fools’ Day, be careful. You can be wrong!”

There is an even longer catchline in Sweden where, after a successful trick, someone calls out a phrase meaning: “April, April, you stupid herring, I can trick you wherever I want.”

Wherever you are, it is all lighthearted and fun, and while April Fools’ Day is perhaps not as widely practised as when we were children, there is still enough activity to cause lots of laughter and amusement. From amazing pictures from a company offering the UK’s first home cremation service to the new Google Play for Pets, jokes and original pranks are still being launched on unsuspecting people.

Plastic wrap has brought in a whole new area for April Fools, from covering a toilet bowl with wrap so people use the toilet without realising it is covered; to stretching plastic wrap across a doorway at shoulder height and watching people walk into it. Sticking tape over the optical sensor of someone’s mouse can cause a lot of amusement, especially in an office.

If you want some ideas for pranks, there are some original thoughts on this American clip, although it does end up with a selling push. You tube also has lots of examples of pranks from the past as well; although few quite as good as the BBC’s spaghetti spoof.

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