What Happened to April Fool’s Day?

April 1st, 2009 in Pop Culture History by Gerald D. Swick

Wallets on a string. Coins glued to a sidewalk. Squirting lapel flowers. Hand buzzers. An urgent message to call L. C. deKowl at a number that turns out to be Borden’s Dairies.

Such April Fool’s Day tricks have largely fallen by the wayside. Perhaps they became victims of a litigious society in which we all walk on eggshells to avoid lawsuits. (Disclaimer from Legal Department: This statement is not intended to sanction crushing eggs with or without unborn chickens in them or to infer support for ruling-class domination of the oppressed poultry community. Neither was the earlier reference to L.C. deKowl and Borden’s Dairies intended to diss the bovine community. Check out Elsie the Cow’s history, including her contribution to America’s efforts in World War II.)

Maybe today we’re just too busy or too worried to indulge in such Tomfoolery. (Legal disclaimer: No slight is intended to anyone named Thomas, Tom, Tommy, Tomas or any other variation of this esteemed name.) Or maybe, with pros like Wall Street brokerage firms and international banks pulling practical jokes on a global scale, we amateurs just figure, Why try to compete with those professionals.?

Perhaps a better question is, How in the heck did we start this practice anyway, and why did we pick April 1 to humiliate each other? Well, okay, that’s two questions. So sue me. (Legal Disclaimer: He doesn’t mean that.)

The origins of this international holiday are lost in legend. One popular version claims it was linked to the time when calendars switched New Year’s Day from late March to January 1, a subject Alexander Rose explored in his recent post.

Personally, I think it was a safety release valve for hostilities stored up during the bleak months of winter that could only be used when Spring returned. Don’t even think about tricking someone while that person is cold, miserable and cranky.

The Independent in the UK has a detailed explanation of the history of this hilarious holiday – assuming the explanation isn’t itself a prank. You still can’t beat the Brits for dry humor. For an American view, see a list of classic pranks enshrined at the April Fool’s Day Hall of Fame near Brooklyn, New York.

About the Author: I regard historic research as a never-ending Easter egg hunt: You never know where you'll find a hidden treasure. Growing up with parents who told stories of family history probably had a lot to do with that. I realized early on that history is about lives already lived. I've met war veterans, early aviators, friends of Abraham Lincoln's in-laws, and a host of others who shared their histories with me – and it was never boring!

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2 Responses to “What Happened to April Fool’s Day?”

  1. Brent Layman said:

    Thanks for the chuckle Gerald. I did manage to convince my younger kids it had snowed last night and almost had one of my employees parking in my bosses spot! Trying for some wholesome fun!

  2. Five minutes after this was published, one of our editors nailed me good with a prank. I’m glad to see we haven’t lost all our ability to pull good April Fool jokes, Brent.

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