April Fools' Day: A day of pranks

April 1st is a day not for gifts of spring but “Gotcha!” Photo: Loch Ness monster in your local pond? April Fool!

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2013 — Happy April Fools’ Day! This is the day the kid-in-us has waited for all year. It’s not a day for gifts, but “Gotcha!”

Your goal is to survive a gauntlet of tricksters all the while savoring your own favorite pranks from childhood. Who can forget pouring sugar out of the sugar bowl and filling it with salt? And then when your dad put two teaspoons into his coffee, you waited. You didn’t have to wait long.

On the first sip, he spewed a mouthful of coffee half way across the table, cursing, while you doubled-up laughing and yelling “April Fool!” You can bet the Old Man wasn’t laughing and he punished you, but good, only it was worth it for the look on his face.

However, if you share your story, remember you are doing more than encouraging your listener to help you relieve Yesteryear, because the next thing you know, you’re punked. If your dad hadn’t bragged to the family about the time he switched the salt for sugar on Grandpa, you would never been inspired to do the same.

Happy April Fools’ Day! Photo: AP

It is much safer to share instead a few April Fool’s tidbits like why the heck is there even such a day in the first place. To help you get the through the day without one “Gotcha!” moment, here are a some facts to distract the “enemy.”

1. How did April Fool’s Day get started?

There are lots of theories out there, dating the day of tricks from the Roman times to the change of the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar (people who were still celebrating the New Year on April 1 after the calendar change were called fools), but the most likely reason for April Fool’s Day is that it evolved out of the “renewal festivals” that were common all over Europe, celebrating the end of winter and the return of spring.

Often it was seen as a day of mayhem and misrule, when all the rules were suspended for one day, turning the social order upside down. Children could be parents, servants could be masters, the court jester could be king. Disguises and costumes were common, allowing people to play tricks on friends, family and strangers without repercussions.

2. What are some great April Fools’ Day tricks played on the public?

A favorite happened back on April 1, 1957, when the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) punked the nation with a TV report of a huge spaghetti harvest in Switzerland after the elimination of the dastardly “spaghetti weevil” and a mild winter. Film was shown of happy farmers actually removing strands of spaghetti from tall trees and then drying them on the grass, later to be served to discriminating diners. Viewers actually called the BBC to find out how they too could grow their own spaghetti tree.

* Back in 1992, “Talk of the Nation” on NPR (National Public Radio) broadcast that Richard Nixon had decided to throw his hat into the ring and run for president once more. His campaign slogan was: “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.”

The announcement was accompanied with audios of Nixon reading his candidacy speech. Immediately, NPR was deluged by stunned listeners venting their outrage at his audacity to run again. Later in the second half of the show, host John Hockenberry announced it had been a joke and that what listeners had heard was comedian Rich Little impersonating Nixon

* And then there is everyone’s favorite prank that Taco Bell pulled off in 1996 when it announced plans to buy the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia and rename it the Taco Bell. Even the White House seemed to be in on the joke. When a reporter asked the White House Press Secretary about the report, he never missed a beat, showing a quick sense of humor and answering that he had just learned that the Lincoln Memorial had recently been sold to Ford Motor Company.

3. Are there pranks to play on people at the office?

Office jokes can be a bit dangerous, resulting in a loss of your job, but if you can’t resist, here is one you might try, if you dare.

It’s a delicious one in which life imitates art by cooking up the same prank on a coworker that Jim in “The Office” pulled on Dwight: encasing a stapler in Jello. You pick the flavor. But cherry would be nice in honor of the cherry blossoms that bloom at this time of year.

4. What are great pranks for kids to play on their friends and family?

Everyone is a kid at heart, so these pranks are not only reserved for the twelve and under crowd. One favorite is to add a couple of drops of food coloring to milk. It’s harmless, but if it’s bile green it could make for a big reaction, especially when your sister pours it on her favorite cereal.

Or poke a hold in a piece of fruit and dangle a candy gummy worm out of the hole, maybe even slipping it in your brother’s lunch.

Another favorite probably dates back to the days of Tom Sawyer. Scatter some coins randomly on the sidewalk, so they look like they just fell out of someone’s pocket, and glue them  down. Then stand back and watch people, preferably your friends, try unsuccessfully to pick them up, growing more and more frustrated.

People the world over love jokes (it’s seems to be in our DNA), which is why kings kept court jesters around to keep them smiling. Just remember, however, if you indulge in a prank, you may find yourself on the receiving end by the end of the day. 

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

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