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A month by month of forgotten legends and pastimes from Britain's folk history
April Fools Day - 1 April

April Fools Day

April begins with a day of fun and jokes - April Fool's Day. No one really knows when this custom began but it has been kept for hundreds of years.

The First of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fools Day;
But why the people call it so,
Not I, nor they themselves do know.

Change of Calendars
It is commonly believed that that April Fool came about because of the change of calendars. In 1582, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar called the Gregorian calendar which is the calendar we still use today.

The new calendar was introduced because the old calendar, called the Julian calendar, was ahead by ten days because each year was a little too long. Gregory moved the new calendar forward by ten days.

Britain didn't accept the new calendar until 1752.

In the Julian calendar, the old calendar, New Year was celebrated from March 25th to April 1st. The first day of the Gregorian calendar is January 1st.

In France, people were forgetful and other people refused to accept the new calendar, so they still celebrated New Year on April 1st. Other people would play tricks on them and call them April Fools.

There is a custom among Jews that the custom of making fools on the first of April arose from the fact that Noah sent out the dove on the first of the month corresponding to our April.

When did April Fool become popular in England?

April fooling became popular in England and Scotland during the 1700s.

April Fool Jokes
April Fool jokes usually involve persuading someone to do something silly, like looking for hen's teeth, striped paint, a long weight, a left-handed screwdriver or some other non-existent thing.

However, you can only play April Fools on people before midday –at midday the fun must stop or the trickster is told:

'April Fool's Day is past and gone,
Your 're the fool and I am none.

April Fool 1957

One of the great April Fool jokes took place on April 1st, 1957. The BBC TV programme Panorama did a documentary on 'spaghetti farmers' growing 'spaghetti trees.' The hoax Panorama programme featured a family from Ticino in Switzerland carrying out their annual spaghetti harvest. It showed women carefully plucking strands of spaghetti from a tree and laying them in the sun to dry.

The joke was an enormous success. Hundreds of people believed there was such things as spaghetti trees. Soon after the broadcast ended, the BBC began to receive hundreds of calls from puzzled viewers. Did spaghetti really grow on trees, they wanted to know. Others were eager to learn how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC reportedly replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best." :)

April Fool's Day in 2005

In the age of computers we now have April fool jokes online with Ask Jeeves promising a humanoid search robot that will "find your car keys" and Google launching Google Gulp – a "smart drink" that makes you more intelligent and less thirsty.

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