Staff Post: Don’t be fooled, it’s April Fools’ Day!

Have you been caught out by any pranks today? Today’s blog post comes from Sabrina, one of our Project Managers!   

It’s officially spring and with it we are getting longer days, better weather (well, for Scotland that means it might not be raining the whole day, just part of it) and generally people are more cheerful. No wonder that it is this time of year when we celebrate a day of jokes and fun: It’s April Fools’ Day today!

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Looking into the background it seems there is not one definite explanation with regards to the origin of this holiday. Nevertheless a popular argument is for example that in the Middle Ages the New Year was celebrated around this time. Then (in the 16th century) the Gregorian calendar was introduced and New Years’ Day was shifted to January 1. This change was refused by some, they kept seeing the New Year in at the beginning of April and everybody who celebrated now on January 1 made fun of them.

Despite the root of the traditional jesting on this day being unclear it is observed in different countries and cultures around the world:

In Scotland it is called “Hunt the Gowk” day (gowk meaning cuckoo, foolish person) and the goal is to trick people and send them on fool’s errands, traditionally asking somebody to deliver a message (“Dinna laugh, dinna smile. Hunt the gawk another mile”). Upon reading it the recipient then would try to send the victim on to somebody else with that message continuing the chain. Here the holiday is also extended by another day with 2nd April being “Taily Day”; this is where the traditional “Kick me” sign comes into play.

In Iran the 13th day of the Persian New Year usually occurs at the beginning of this month and is celebrated as Sizdah Bedar. People will enjoy spending time outside with food and games and part of it is also the tradition to throw away green vegetables symbolising illnesses or bad luck.

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The Holi festival in India is celebrated at the end of March (31st) including jokes and the throwing of coloured dust to introduce and mark the beginning of spring.

The French call April 1st “Poissoon d’Avril” (April Fish) and a traditional prank of children is to pin a paper fish to somebody’s back.

In Macedonia children and adults will dress up wearing masks and towns will organise parades and festivities.

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In ancient Greece April 1 was dedicated to Dionysus (the God of wine) and Aphrodite (goddess of love and beauty). Now, over time it also has become quite popular for the media, newspapers, websites or even major companies to get involved and they have played elaborate jokes on the public. Here is a selection:

In 2000, an American newspaper announced the invention of weight loss socks which would suck body fat out of sweaty feet

In 2012 the Brittish Library wrote in a blog abot the discovery of a medieval cookbook which included instructions on how to cook a unicorn

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A Derbyshire prop maker posted in 2007 a picture of a “mummified fairy”. His site had thousands of visitors with people claiming they had found similar creatures. Even after admitting that it was a prank the interest did not subside and a few years later the prop maker was funded a “make your own mummified fairy” kit.

In 1980 the overseas news service of the BBC announced that Big Ben would go digital and the clock hands would be given out to the first four listeners calling in.

In 1991 a newspaper reported about the plans to avoid the congestion of a particular highway. Following this it said that in future traffic would travel clockwise every second day and anti-clockwise any days in between.

A news program in Australia stated in 1975 that the country would soon adapt the “metric time” with 100 seconds in a minute, 100 minutes in an hour and 20 hours in a day.

In 1983 a car manufacturer revealed the new design of a car which would allow for the sunroof to be kept open even in rain due to jets of air blasting the water away.

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A UK magazine featured an article in 1980 which said that the fur on bearskin helmets (as worn by the guards at Buckingham Palace) keeps growing and therefore needs to be trimmed regularly. Another newspaper not realising that it was a prank picked up on the story and published it as well.

In 2011 Google announced the introduction of  new technology whereby people could write emails through hand gestures, for example to reply to a message they could point backwards over their shoulder.

An American newspaper reported in 1878 that Thomas Edison had invented a machine that would directly turn soil into cereal or water into wine.

In 1998 a fast food chain in the US advertised a new variety specifically designed for left-handed people. Ingredients were supposed to be the same, just rotated by 180 degrees.

A british radio station aired an interview with an astronomer in 1976 announcing a rare planetary alignment with the effect of the Earth’s gravity being reduced. Listeners called in confirming the effext including a woman who stated that she and her friends had floated around the room.

Who would have thought that people would fall for some of the pranks, would you? No? Well, am I maybe pulling your leg? 😉

Happy April Fools’ Day!

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