On one April 1 in the late ‘90s, my father woke me up at 5 a.m. to tell me that our dog, Sandy, who had been looking a little chubby lately, had had puppies in the middle of the night. I was immediately on my feet and running merrily down the hallway. But I didn’t realize what day it was until I found Sandy sleeping soundly in the kitchen, still fat, no puppies and my dad laughing in the other room, “April Fools’!”
You can put that on top of your list of cruelest ways to get a kid out of bed at the crack of dawn.
But some of the best April Fools’ jokes are when the joke backfires on the joker. This year, according to the Associated Press, a 16-year-old girl from Illinois was issued a $150 ticket after texting her friend and cousin that she had been robbed and shot in the foot as her idea of an elaborate April Fools’ joke. The girl was given a $100 ticket for disorderly conduct and a $50 ticket for skipping school.
Little is known about the origins of this long-lived day of pranks. Some historians believe that it may date back all the way to 1582 when France switched their calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian. Because word spread much slower back then, the people who were still celebrating the first of the year in April, instead of January, became the butt of many jokes. They would have paper fish tacked on their backs and were called “poison d’avril,” a term still used in France to describe someone who is extremely gullible.
But how has a day wholly dedicated to making dupes of us all managed to stay such a tradition for so long?
Perhaps we have corporate America to thank for keeping the pranks alive.
Back on April 1, 1998, Burger King released their “left-handed burger” and actually had customers ordering the fake sandwich. And remember on April 1, 1996 when Taco Bell announced that they were planning on buying the Liberty Bell and renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell?
We know that Americans love to laugh, but what makes our sense of humor so great is that we also love to laugh at ourselves. April Fools’ Day isn’t really about making fools out of others, but to make us stop taking ourselves so seriously, at least for one day.