April Fools’ Day-History
By admin - Sun Apr 01, 11:31 am
This news flash just in: The City of San Diego and Chargers have reached an agreement to build a multi-billion dollar football palace downtown. This joint will make the Dallas Cowboys’ crib look like a toxic-waste dump; it will be replete with a retractable roof, fine dining stands all over the place and all the beer vendors anyone could want.
And the best thing: Not only will taxpayers not be on the hook for even one cent of the stadium cost, they will be given a stipend every month once it’s finished, courtesy of the Spanos family.
Indeed, April 1 means April Fools’ Day, that day of mirth, merriment, gags, practical jokes, pranks, well-timed insults and flat-out lies, is upon us once again. What many folks might forget is AFD is a BFD — it’s widely celebrated throughout the West, and even in at least one country that would be shocking to most, but more on that later.
Also unknown by many is that April Fools’ Day (aka All Fools’ Day) has a history that goes back many hundreds of years. The first mention of April 1 and silly behavior is found in Chaucer’s Cantebury Tales, written in 1392. History has it that April Fools’ Day really started gaining traction in France, circa 1582.
Under the rule of Charles X, France junked the Julian Calendar and replaced it with the Gregorian Calendar, which shifted New Year’s Day to January 1. Apparently, the old New Year’s was April 1, and some local folks continued to ring in the new year on that day, either out of ignorance or a desire to stick to tradition.
Regardless, these folks were chided by those considered more enlightened, and they were sent on “fools errands” or subjected to be convinced that something apocryphal was actually fact.
How April Fools’ Day is celebrated differs in some countries. For example, in the United States, France, Italy, South Korea, The Netherlands, Ireland and other locales, April 1 is an all-day prank-a-thon. In France and Italy, the custom calls for children to tack paper fish on each other’s back while shouting “April fish” in the local tongue. That would be “poisson d’avril” in French and “pesce d’aprile” in Italian. Kids have been known to stick the fish on adults (who are also known to participate), but only on those they know well.
This practice also exists in parts of Belgium. A Flemish tradition sees kids locking out their parents or teachers, only letting them in if they vow to bring them treats the same evening or the next day.
In Canada, New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere, the joke is on you if you pull a prank afternoon, earning an “April Fool” taunt.
Despite its European roots, April Fools’ Day probably dates back to an unlikely place — Iran, hardly a haven for fun and games. On the 13th day of the Persian new year — which is either April 1 or 2, Iranians subject each other to jokes and good-natured mischief. This practice is called “Sizdah Bedar” and goes all the way back to 536 BC, so if a dispatch comes out of Tehran saying, “Ahmadinejad to Buy Padres, Wants to Bring Back Adrian Gonzalez and Sign Tebow”, dismiss it as poppycock.
On that note, there has been a cavalcade media-led pranks tossed out on April Fools’ Day throughout the years; here are a few of them.
1957: The British Broadcasting Company television show “Panorama” ran a segment showing the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. Many viewers subsequently called the BBC for advice on how to do it themselves. This remains one of the most hilarious AFD pranks ever.
1965: The BBC allegedly conducted a test that showed odor could be transmitted from TV sets, making it “Smell-O-Vision.” An Australian network followed suit years later. The fact is “Smell-O-Vision replaces television” was a line uttered by Bugs Bunny in a cartoon years before either of these stunts.
1993: A San Diego radio outlet convinced many listeners that the Space Shuttle had been diverted from Edwards Air Force Base and was on the verge of making an emergency landing at a local commuter airport.
1996: Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in the otherwise staid New York Times announcing that it had bought the Liberty Bell to ease the country’s debt and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” Showing a sharp sense of humor, White House press secretary Mike McCarthy, when told of the bogus Taco Bell sale, remarked that the Lincoln Memorial had also been purchased and would be known as the “Ford Lincoln Memorial.”
1998: Truly pushing the envelope of good taste off a cliff, Boston radio shock jocks Opie and Anthony of WAAF reported that mayor Thomas Menino had been killed in a car accident. Menino was on a flight at the time and couldn’t be reached, giving some credence to the story. It turned out he was alive and well, and the two radio personalities were canned. However, their notoriety helped them land a syndicated show.
1998: San Francisco radio station KITS changed its call letters to KGAY for an hour, during which it played only gay-themed songs.
Finally, there have been several notables born on April 1, among them: TV political commentator Rachel Maddow; country music legend Merle Haggard; horror film star Lon Chaney; actresses Ali MacGraw and Debbie Reynolds, former long-time Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler; singer Susan Boyle of “American Idol” fame; baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro, who won 316 games during a 24-year career.
But last but not least among those of note born on April 1 would be this reporter, your favorite SanDiego.com pundit. And that’s not a joke or prank.