For one day a year, it is widely recognised and socially acceptable to be silly and play tricks on one another. In a tradition that dates back to the times of the Ancient Romans, pranking has evolved from slipping salt into tea instead of sugar to huge international companies fooling nations with their “newest inventions” (such as the PlayStation Flow) or latest “breaking news”.
As part of our mission to break down language barriers, we thought it would be a good idea to share some April Fool’s day traditions from across the globe. They say knowledge is power and the question is, will you use this knowledge wisely to avoid pranksters or will you become the prankster?
A straight-faced nation gets permission to be silly on the first of April every year. In England, you have until midday to play your tricks on your friends. I remember April Fool’s being especially fun when I was a child as we would add special “sugar” to our Dad’s tea which reacted in such a way that it would foam out of the cup. But it’s not just children that get involved as you have to be careful what you watch on the news on this particular day.
One of Britain’s most famous pranks on the nation was pulled in 1957 when a BBC documentary was made on Spaghetti farming. The documentary showed a family in Switzerland growing spaghetti on ‘spaghetti trees’ and people even wrote to ask how they could grow their own spaghetti!
The French have a slightly more innocent trick to play on one another as they celebrate Poisson d’Avril (April Fish). The clue is in the name as children make a paper fish and stick it to their friend's back. They then have to run away and scream "Poisson d'Avril!", letting everyone within hearing distance know that they have just successfully pulled a prank.
If you happen to be in Portugal this April Fool's, be very weary of passersby who appear to be concealing something in their hands. Chances are it is going to be a handful of flour as the Portuguese celebrate 'Dia da Mentira' by throwing some flour in a poor, unsuspecting friend's face.
India have a tradition that is similar to Portugal's as they blow colourful powder at people to celebrate April Fool's day. Just as messy as Portugal, but in true Indian style, very colourful. Indian companies have pulled their nation's collective leg on more than one occasion but take a look at this advert for a new smartphone app that can kill mosquitoes - after all, there's an app for everything, right?
The Swedes also love to have some fun on the 1st of April each year and much like the French, they have a short rhyme to say at the end of their pranks: “April, april din dumma sill, jag kan lura dig vart jag vill” (April, April you silly herring, I can fool you anywhere I want to).
One of the most famous Swedish pranks pulled was in 1962 before the days of colour TV. The nation was told in a news bulletin that new software had been installed on their television sets and all they had to do was pull a nylon stocking over it to watch in colour.
Turns out Sweden love their jokes so much that if you fail to trick someone on the 1st of April, you can try again on the 1st of May shouting “Maj, maj måne jag kan lura dig till Skåne” (May, May moon, I can trick you to Skåne) instead!
So there we go, some fun facts about April Fool's day in different cultures. I myself was perfectly fooled a few years ago as I tried to find an interesting article about Spanish festivals for homework. I came across an article on the internet about a fish and chip festival and thought I had struck gold. I even printed it out and started planning my presentation before I realised it was published on the 1st of April!
How do you celebrate April Fool's Day in your country? Or what is the best prank you have seen? We would love to hear from you!
Finally, if you're planning an office prank this year perhaps you should take some tips from the master of tricks Jim Halpert.