I bet there are few reading this who when young didn’t say to a friend ‘Hey, your shoelace is undone’, or pointed to their father’s trousers saying in a serious voice, ‘Dad, your flies are undone’.
But where does this strange custom originate? The origins are said to lie within Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, although the reasoning does seem a bit vague and obscure, and to be honest I don’t get it. Similarly another often cited source says we owe it to the French and the adoption of the Gregorian calendar when New Year celebrations moved from the last week of March to 1 January. Thereby those still celebrating on 1 April were derided as ‘poisson d’Avril’. It does sound feasible but the new calendar was introduced over the space of nearly a century, so perhaps not! However, the French do still pin paper fish on people’s backs and shout ‘poisson d’Avril’.
Whatever the origins April Fools’ Day has been with us for a long time and celebrated in many countries. In Scotland it’s known as ‘Hunt the gowk day’, gowk being a cuckoo or daftie, and here in England you have to get your April fool before midday or you become the fool yourself.
Television and the media have been responsible for some good April Fools gags over the years too, including:-
In 1957 the BBC reported on the bumper annual spaghetti harvest in Switzerland showing pictures of workers picking it from the trees.
BBC Radio reported in 1976 that the planet Pluto would be passing behind Jupiter and the resultant gravitational alignment would temporarily reduce Earth’s gravity, and for a while people might experience a floating sensation.
1998 saw Burger King’s newspaper advert announcing the new ‘Left-Handed Whopper Burger’ (same as the original but rotated through 180 degrees) for all left handed Americans.
In 1972 the body of the Loch Ness Monster was fond, and in 2008 a rare colony of flying penguins was discovered.
I am sure you have heard of many others, so whatever you do on April Fool’s Day, enjoy your jolly japes and jokes but be careful about what you see on the television or read in the newspapers!