Swiss Spaghetti Harvest prank in 1957

Swiss Spaghetti Harvest prank in 1957

By Felicia Farnsworth

When we think of April Fool’s Day, we think of pranks and shenanigans, but when did it start, and how? There’s been a long dispute about the origins of April 1 and foolishness.

Some say it is associated with Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1392).

In the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” a Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox on Syn March bigan thrifty days and two, which at the time readers translated this line to mean “32 March,” i.e., April 1. Some historians believe it started in France, 1582, when the country switched from the Julian calendar to the Georgian calendar.

The old new year was celebrated during the last week of March through April 1, and the new calendar celebrates it on January 1.

Those who did not know of the change became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April Fools.” The pranks that were pulled consisted of having a paper fish placed on their backs and called “Poisson d’avril” (April Fish).

The fish symbolized a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person. There’s also speculation that April Fools Day is tied to the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

People pulling pranks on one another on April Fools Day has, in the past, crossed over into the media with radio and TV stations, as well as newspapers and websites. Some major corporations have also performed pranks to celebrate April Fools Day.

In 1957, BBC was flooded with phone calls of viewers wanting to purchase the “spaghetti plant” after a film was broadcast during their Panorama current affairs series, which showed Swiss farmers picking freshly grown spaghetti in what they called the “Swiss Spaghetti Harvest.”

With so many viewers calling about the plant, they declared the film a hoax the following day. With new generations having a multitude of access to the internet, more pranks and jokes can be caught on video and shared with millions of people worldwide.

Although the exact origin of April Fools Day is not 100% known, I, for one, am glad it exists; otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to get away with putting plastic wrap over the toilet seat or placing powder in my sister’s blow dryer.

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