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Encyclopedia > April Fool's Day

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April Fool's Day

April Fool's Day or, more correctly, All Fools' Day is a holiday celebrated in many countries on April 1. The day is celebrated by the execution of hoaxes and practical jokes of varying sophistication with the goal of publicly embarrassing the gullible.

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History Some sources say that the special meaning of April 1 originates in the French change to the Gregorian calendar ordered by King Charles IX of France in 1582. Before that, New Year was celebrated from March 25 to April 1. With the change of the calendar system, New Year was "moved" to January 1. People who forgot or didn't accept the new date system were given invitations to nonexistent parties, funny gifts etc. This was known in France as poisson d'avril (April fish).

Hoaxes Some media organisations have either unwittingly or deliberately propagated many hoaxes. Even normally serious news media consider April Fools' Day hoaxes fair game, and spotting them has become an annual pastime. The worldwide spread of the Internet has also assisted the pranksters in their work.

Some particularly well-known April Fools' Day hoaxes include:

  • Kremvax: one of the early Internet April Fool's day hoaxes.
  • San Serriffe: The Guardian printed a supplement featuring this fictional island. (a reference to "sans-serif", a family of typefaces.)
  • Smell-o-vision: The BBC purported to conduct a trial of a new technology allowing the transmission of odour over the airwaves to all viewers. Despite the fact that no such capability existed, many viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to report the trial's success.
  • Spaghetti trees: The BBC television program Panorama ran a famous hoax in 1957, showing the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. A lot of people wanted trees of their own.
  • Metric time: Repeated several times in various countries over the year, this hoax claims that the time system will be changed to some system where one subdivision is some power of 10 smaller than the next. The idea to metricise time was suggested in France after the French Revolution: see French Revolutionary Calendar.

Ironically, some April Fool jokes that hinge on technological advances have become reality. For example, in the late 1980s a British television Saturday morning kids' programme ran an April Fool hoax about a device named Chippy (the name is a give-away, a "chippy" is a common term for a fish and chips takeway). It was a new type of walkman, which they claimed could hold hundreds of songs on a microchip, thus rendering CDs and radio obsolete. Fast forward to the 2000s, and MP3 players...

April Fool hoaxes

A list of 2002's April Fool hoaxes can be found in the April 1, 2002 article.

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