Of all the sort-of holidays we humans celebrate, April Fools’ Day has got to be the most bizarre and playing tricks on people just because it’s April 1 could even be construed as a little on the cruel side.
So, what the hell is April Fools’ Day, why do we celebrate it and crucially, what are the best and worst pranks to play on your loved ones? We’ve got all the answers…
What is April Fools’ Day? It’s this informal holiday when people play jokes on each other.
Whose bright idea was this, then? No one really knows. Until about the 18th century, our ancestors treated the beginning of spring as a fun-filled new year’s celebration, so one school of thought cites this as an origin of all the tomfoolery. But similar festivals – including the Roman celebration of Hilaria, on March 25 – date back thousands of years.
One of the earliest literary references to April Fools’ Day saw Chaucer write about how a vain cock got tricked by a fox on April 1. Senses of humour were different back then.
So do we get a day off work or not? Not usually, but this year it’s Easter on April 1, too. Huzzah!
Where is it celebrated? In more countries than you might think. Prank-playing occurs on or around April 1 in Poland, Iran and several Scandinavian countries. In France and French-speaking Canada people attach paper fish to each other’s backs, while in the Philippines pranksters mark their victims with yellow dye. As you do.
What time does the hilarity stop? In the UK and countries to whom Brits have passed their way of celebrating April Fools’ Day on, the japes traditionally cease at midday. The idea is that if you try to prank someone after 12pm, then you become the fool.
I don’t get it. Well yeah, the French fish thing is a bit weird, I’ll give you that.
I like the sound of this! Give me some ideas. The easiest way to come up with a memorable April Fools’ Day joke is to think like a student. We’re talking cling film over the toilet bowl at work; food colouring on your partner’s toothbrush; changing the time on all the clocks in the house etc. Disclaimer: Metro doesn’t condone actually carrying any of these out, obviously. In fact, we don’t even like jokes.
Does it ever go wrong? Of course it does. For example in Florida one year, three teenagers were killed by an eight-ton truck that overran an intersection where the stop signs had been removed as part of an April Fools prank.
Tell me some famous April Fools jokes. The BBC has good form on this one. In 1957, thousands of viewers believed a report about scientists discovering spaghetti trees in Switzerland, while in 1976, Sir Patrick Moore told Radio 2 listeners that if they jumped in the air at 9.47am on April 1 they would experience a floating sensation.
This is all sounds rather silly. How can I stay out of its way? Luckily, this year, April 1 is also a public holiday in the UK (owing to it being Easter Monday), so you’ve probably got the day off. We suggest just staying in bed until midday.
What’s the best joke to play? Since you’re probably not working, jokes on your colleagues are mostly out. Unless of course you’re someone’s boss and you fancy sending your employee an angry email asking them why they haven’t turned up for work. Don’t do that.