In Spain, the equivalent of April Fools’ Day is known as the Massacre of the Innocents. Yes, you did read that correctly; rather than the British day for “plonkers” the Spanish have named their funniest day of the year after Herod’s massacre of infants – perhaps it’s a cultural difference, but it doesn’t sound quite so funny to me!
Unlike the Spanish tradition, the origins of April Fools’ Day, celebrated in the UK, and many other countries, are less clear. Some say the origins are in poetry, some say fishing traditions and some say a Roman custom where servants controlled their masters for a day. It doesn’t really matter though as the day of jokes is brilliant regardless. Here are some of my favourite April Fool’s pranks
1. Spaghetti grows on trees
In 1957, the BBC broadcast a news segment on the troubles facing the spaghetti harvest. The footage showed a Swiss family carefully picking strands of spaghetti from a tree and drying them in the sun. The programme was watched and believed by millions – some viewers even called the BBC, wanting to buy spaghetti bushes.
2. Talk with your pet hamster with Google’s app
In 2009, Google released an app enabling you to record and translate all kinds of moos, baas and quacks. Google stated that they had worked alongside senior fellows of Oxford University to remove the “language barriers between the species”.
3. Volcano erupts!
In Sitka, Alaska, thousands awoke to the sight of black smoke billowing from the long dormant volcano. A Coast Guard helicopter went to investigate. The pilot nervously approached the crater, only to find a huge pile of burning car tyres and a spray painted ‘April fool’ sign. I’m not sure everyone would see the funny side of this!
4. Update your black and white TV for free … using nylon stockings
In 1962, thousands of Swedish parents stripped off their nylon stockings and carefully stretched them over the screens of their TVs. When their TV screens failed to update from black and white to colour (this technology wouldn’t be available for another 8 years), they wondered if the stockings were the wrong denier. What they should have been questioning was the technology “expert” of the national TV channel, SVT, which had broadcast an April Fools hoax earlier that day.
5. Iceberg in Australia
Australians were shocked to find an iceberg floating past the Sydney Opera House in 1978. Radio stations at the time provided a blow by blow account as the iceberg hit national news. Only when it began to rain did the truth come out: the shaving foam melted revealing the plastic structure. N-ice prank!