People have played pranks on one another on April 1 for centuries. No one can pinpoint the first celebration of April Fools’ Day.
Some historians think April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582. This is when France changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The spring equinox around April 1 was celebrated beginning around 45 BC when the calendar was proposed by Julius Caesar. People laughed at those who missed the new celebration date. Other experts think April Fools’ Day began much sooner with the Ancient Romans.
Famous April Fools’ Day Pranks
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Horse Tail Lights
On April 1, 1961, the So La Notte newspaper announced that a new law had been passed in Milan making it mandatory for horses to be outfitted with signaling and brake lights. Many people took their horses to car mechanics to have them outfitted with the necessary lights.
Comic Book Switcheroo
On April 1, 1997, forty-six comic strip artists created each other’s comic strips for the day. Each artist added a touch of his own comic humor into the other comic strip. For example, Jim Davis of Garfield showed his overweight cat eating one of Dagwood’s sandwiches in Blondie.
On April 1, 1998, Burger King published a full-page ad in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item on their menu, the Left-Handed Whopper. Burger King rotated the condiments 180 degrees to make the burger easier for left-handed customers. Thousands of customers went to Burger King requesting the new burger before the company announced the following day that it was a hoax.
Taco Liberty Bell
On April 1, 1996, the Taco Bell Corporation took out a full-page ad in six major newspapers announcing they had bought the Liberty Bell. They were renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia to express their anger.
When people asked White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry about the sale; he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold. It was going to be renamed the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
Colorize Your TV
The first color television broadcast took place on January 1, 1954; however, for the next ten years, most network broadcasts and nearly all local programming were in back-and-white. Due to this, color television sets did not begin to sell until the mid-1960s. On April 1, 1962, a Swedish television expert, Kjell Stensson, informed the public that thanks to new technology, viewers could convert their existing televisions to color. Stensson told viewers to pull a nylon stocking over their TV screen and the mesh of the stocking would cause the light to bend making the images appear to be in color. Thousands of viewers rushed around their homes looking for stockings to slide over their television screens only to discover it did not work.
On April 1, 1957, a respected BBC news show called Panorama ran a segment about growing spaghetti. Viewers watched Swiss farmers picking spaghetti from trees while the announcer explained that due to the mild winter, the spaghetti weevil was virtually eliminated. Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Many viewers believed the newscast and telephoned the BBC network wanting to know where to buy spaghetti trees.
This is a video your students are sure to love. It contains the segment from BBC about the Spaghetti Harvest.