So, children, what started April Fool’s Day?
Fools, of course. You see, when some smart aleck had the idea of adopting the modern Gregorian calendar (named after Pope Gregory XIII; he is really not important in this story), which moved the first of the year from April 1 to January 1, some people weren’t told about the switch. So when they continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1, imagine how foolish they looked. April Fools, indeed.
Well, that’s one theory at least. No matter how it started, April Fool’s Day has been embraced in modern times, and not merely by private individuals. Some very artful pranks have been played on the public:
The BBC pulled off a grand hoax in 1957, when one of its news programs featured a segment showing Swiss farmers harvesting a bumper crop of spaghetti from “spaghetti trees.”
In 1996, Taco Bell ran a full-page ad in the New York Times announcing the company had bought the Liberty Bell to reduce the national debt and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell.”
Burger King tricked quite a few customers in 1998, with its ad in USA Today promoting its new “Left-Handed Whoppers,” whose condiments were placed in the sandwich so they’d drip out of the right side.
In the 1950s, Dutch television reported that Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa had fallen over.
In 1985, George Plimpton wrote an article in Sports Illustrated about a prospective pitcher for the New York Mets named Sidd Finch, who could throw a 168-mph fastball with pinpoint accuracy and learned to pitch in a Buddhist monastery. The first letter of each word in the article’s subheads spelled out “April Fools.”