If you see footage of penguins flying, check your calendar. There’s a good chance it’s April 1! The first day of April each year is celebrated as April Fools’ Day (sometimes called All Fools’ Day).

Although it’s not a legal holiday, April Fools’ Day is celebrated all around the world as a day filled with practical jokes and general silliness. You may want to be a little more cautious or skeptical on April 1, since family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and even teachers may try to tickle your funny bone with a practical joke or a hoax of some kind.

So how did this tradition of craziness begin? In truth, it remains a mystery, although there are many theories about how April Fools’ Day got started.

Some believe the first association between April 1 and playing tricks can be found in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales from 1392. In “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” a fox tricks proud rooster Chauntecleer on syn March bigan thritty dayes and two.

Although Chaucer probably meant 32 days after March (May 2), many readers apparently misunderstood the line to mean March 32 — or April 1.

Others believe that April Fools’ Day was the result of a desire to celebrate the turning of the seasons around springtime. In fact, many cultures have historically held such celebrations around the beginning of April.

For example, the ancient Romans had a festival named Hilaria on March 25. The Hindus celebrate Holi, and the Jews celebrate Purim around this time of year.

Still others believe April Fools’ Day got its start because of the adoption of a new calendar in 1582. Many ancient cultures celebrated New Year’s Day around April 1.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered the use of a new calendar, known as the Gregorian calendar, which celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1. According to legend, many people refused to recognize the new calendar or simply didn’t know about it. These people continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1.

Eventually, other people began to make fun of these backward “fools” by sending them to look for things that did not exist (called a “fool’s errand”) or tricking them into believing something false.

Although we can’t really pinpoint how or when April Fools’ Day got its start, people the world over still celebrate it with glee year in and year out. Pranks can be quite simple, such as telling a friend his shoe is untied, or very elaborate, like some of the hoaxes described below.

Whatever the gag, it usually ends with the prankster yelling “April Fool!” when the victim falls for it. To give you a sense of how seriously some people take April Fools’ Day, here are three of the greatest April Fools’ Day hoaxes of all time:

  • Swiss Spaghetti Trees — In 1957, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) news program Panorama announced that Swiss farmers were harvesting a record spaghetti crop thanks to the elimination of the spaghetti weevil. News footage showed Swiss peasants pulling spaghetti from trees. Thousands of viewers were fooled. The BBC reported receiving many calls inquiring how to grow spaghetti trees!
  • “Taco” Liberty Bell — In 1996, Taco Bell announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell to help ease the national deficit. When the company claimed it would be renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell, thousands of citizens were fooled and called to complain. The company revealed it was a practical joke a few hours later, but not before reporters asked White House press secretary Mike McCurry about the sale. Creating a joke of his own, he responded that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would now be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial!
  • “Left-Handed” Whopper — In 1998, Burger King ran an advertisement in USA Today announcing its new “Left-Handed Whopper,” which was specifically designed for left-handed Americans by rotating all condiments exactly 180 degrees. Burger King revealed the hoax the next day but claimed that thousands of customers had requested the new sandwich at their restaurants!

 

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    • Hi, Hannah! You can find LOTS of funny jokes and riddles just by clicking on the links found in the “Try It Out” section of this Wonder of the Day! Just click on the colorful words “funny riddles” and “plenty of fun riddles to choose from.” Have fun and don’t laugh TOO hard! :-)

    • Hi, Brie! Thanks for commenting today! It sounds as if your dad is pretty fond of April Fool’s Day, too! :-)

    • We’re glad you learned some new facts with this Wonder, Catherine! Thank you so much for visiting Wonderopolis today and leaving a comment! :-)

    • That was pretty neat, wasn’t it, Taylor? Thank you for visiting this Wonder of the Day® and for letting us know what you thought about the video! :-)

    • You’re right, Ahmed! Most of the jokes on April Fools’ Day ARE funny, but sometimes people who play jokes take things a little too far. We enjoy laughing when we hear a good joke, don’t you? :-)

  1. I like Taco Liberty Bell!!!!

    When I was in India, I was fooled by my friend, I cant forget that.
    I believed when he said Indian ruling government sold “Taj Mahal.” :)

    -elango

    • Hi, Elango! Thanks so much for your comment today! The Taco Liberty Bell hoax is a GREAT example! Thanks for exploring the links inside this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  2. Hi

    Wow, I never knew that April fool’s was not legal, also I never really bothered how April fool’s was made. But reading this made the topic interesting. That is cool how April fool’s was also “supposed” to be on May 2.

    Thanks for making me wonder,
    Team Clark

    • It makes us SUPER happy to know you are WONDERing, Team Clark 19! Wondering makes us want to learn more, and learning more makes us smarter about the world around us! Way to go! :-)

  3. Hi Wonderopolis!
    The “Spaghetti Tree” video was so funny! I almost believed it! Two new vocabulary words I learned today are ballyhoo and tomfoolery. Two new interesting facts I learned is that April Fools’ Day is also called All Fools’ Day and that the Ancient Romans had a festival called Hilaria on March 25. One wonder I have is “Who made the first calendar?”

    • Hey Alena, thanks for visiting our April Fool’s Day Wonder! We’re happy you’ve been giggling with us today! :)

      Thanks for sharing your comments on this silly day, we’re so glad you’re here! :)

    • Alena, you’ve got us chuckling with all your April Fools prank comments today! :)

      Thanks for using your imagination to create your own April Fools tricks with us– we’re glad you like bacon, holidays and movie stars (and we’re happy they’re real)! :)

    • We’re so happy you liked learning about April Fools’ Day with us, Alena! We Wonder if you and your friends play little pranks on one another? :)

    • Hey there, Alena, we Wonder if you have another favorite holiday to share? It sounds like April Fools’ Day is one of your favorites, but perhaps you have other traditions during Halloween, Independence Day, or even Christmas! :)

  4. These were very interesting facts! And, by the way, at 1 minute and 49 seconds into the video, did anyone else see “OM NOM NOM”?

    • Thank you so much, Gilli! Thanks for making us smile and pointing out the funny section of the video, too! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How did April Fools’ Day begin?
  • What is a “fool’s errand”?
  • What are some of the best April Fools’ Day hoaxes of all time?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Get into the spirit of April Fools’ Day by sharing some funny riddles with your friends and family. Can they guess the correct answers? If not, keep trying.

There are plenty of fun riddles to choose from. Have fun laughing together!

 

Still Wondering

If your funny bone still aches for more silliness, head on over to EDSITEment’s Edward Lear, Limericks, and Nonsense: A Little Nonsense lesson to learn all about nonsense poetry!

 

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