Today in History: April Fool’s Day

Today is April 1, April Fool’s Day.

The History

A long time ago, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25, the vernal equinox, more or less the first day of Spring.  As the world slowly began to adopt the Gregorian calendar (what we have today), everyone decided that January 1 would be New Year’s Day instead of the vernal equinox.

Since there wasn’t internet or telephones back then, apparently some people were left out of the loop and still continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on March 25.  The people who knew what was up called these people fools and would send them white elephant gifts to mock their stupidity.  The fools who got the gifts would think they were for real, but really everyone was just laughing at them.

In France, the fools were called poisson d’avril, or April Fish.  They would put dead fish on the backs of the fools and make fun of them.

You didn’t know before, and now you do.

Some Famous April Fool’s Pranks

A Dutch news-station reported that the Leaning Tower of Pisa had fallen over.  The station received thousands of calls from concerned viewers.

BMW announced in the 1970s that the Mini would be used in space missions.

In 1996, Taco Bell reported that it had bought the Liberty Bell to reduce the national debt.  The Liberty Bell would be known as the Taco Liberty Bell.

A radio station in Tennessee told listeners that Eminem would be doing a free concert in a parking lot of a discount store.  Police had to come to break up the traffick and to arrest the radio jockeys for causing a public nuisance.  The same year, a radio station in Seattle claimed that Pearl Jam (a big alternative band) was giving a free concert in a fictitious town in New Hampshire.  Gas stations all over New Hampshire reported drivers coming in to ask for directions to the non-existent town.

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