Gotcha! Try These April Fools' Day Trivia Questions

It's that time of year: Whoopee cushions are on the chair, and outrageous claims are on news sites.  Try your luck with these trivia questions to see how much you know about April Fools' Day and some of the most awesome pranks ever pulled in its name…


What Is the Origin of April Fools' Day? # Although not an official holiday, April Fools' (sometimes rendered as Fool's) Day is celebrated not only in the United States, but in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and most of Europe as well. Although the precise origin of the holiday is uncertain, several theories have been advanced to explain how we came to associate the first day of April with hoaxes, practical jokes, and pranks. One of the most widely circulated explanations suggests that the holiday came into being after the 16th century switch to the Gregorian calendar in most European countries. Under its predecessor, known as the Julian calendar, New Year's Day was celebrated on or about April 1, which was close to the Vernal Equinox and the coming of spring. Under the Gregorian calendar, the first of January was designated as New Year's Day. Adherents to this theory suggest that those who either weren't aware of the calendar change or chose not to follow it continued to celebrate New Year's Day near the beginning of April, marking them as fools in the eyes of their countrymen.

When Was the First Reference to April Fools' Day? # Look out behind you today! The first reference to April Fools' Day, as we know it, is a question of some debate. Most scholars agree that Geoffrey Chaucer, the saucy poet who loved a good prank, makes reference to it in “The Nun's Priest's Tale,” written sometime around 1392. The story revolves around a vain rooster pranked by a fox.

And references to it are littered all throughout the Middle Ages. In 1686, the first English reference to it comes biographer John Aubrey, who called it the “Fool's Holy Day.” And in 1698, the first public prank in England was recorded, when crowds of people showed up at the Tower of London, having been told the stone lions were getting a bath, a prank that would be recirculated for at least two hundred years. The real credit, however, goes not to the English but, of all places, France.


What Are Some of the Different Names for the Holiday? # This cartoon drawing depicts a popular April Fools' Day prank for office workers. In an article posted at, writer Rebecka Schumann notes that April 1 is not just an occasion for tomfoolery but also a time to celebrate the coming of spring. For this reason, April Fools' Day has a certain kinship with Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, and Hilaria, the ancient Roman celebration of spring's arrival, as heralded by the vernal equinox. 

In France, April 1 is widely known as ¨Poisson d'Avril,¨ or April Fish. Children celebrate the holiday by cutting out paper fish that they then surreptitiously fasten to the backs of their playmates. In Scotland, the practical jokes and pranks are stretched out over two days: April 1 is known as Hunt-the-Gowk (cuckoo) Day, while April 2 is known as Taily Day, and is traditionally reserved for pranks that target people's derrieres or bottoms. These are the folks who are said to have originated the practice of affixing ¨Kick Me¨ signs on the backs of others.

In 1957, What Did the BBC Claim was Growing in Abundance that Spring? # Thank goodness for Chef Boyartree. The BBC perpetrated one of the all-time wackiest April Fools’ stunts in history, when they aired a documentary claiming that the year’s spaghetti harvest would be particularly good that year. They went all out too, publishing pictures of people harvesting spaghetti noodles from what appeared to be the elusive spaghetti tree. 

Obviously, this was all hokum, but it didn’t stop scores of viewers from calling the BBC to ask how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. In their defense, the report was presented during what was supposed to be a serious program.

Who was the Contact Person for a Phony 1994 Bill that Would Make it Illegal to Use the Internet While Drunk? # “And if I know anything about anything, it’s being drunk.” In 1994, PC Computing Magazine columnist John Dvorak wrote that the government was seeking to pass a bill that would make it illegal to get drunk and use the Internet. Since this was 1994 and thus nobody really understood how the Net worked, this “bill” was taken very seriously, to the point where Senator Ted Kennedy had to come out and publicly deny being a sponsor.

Dvorak closed out his column by saying if anyone had questions about the bill, to contact Ms. Lirpa Sloof. That, of course, is April Fools backwards. Sadly, very few people got the joke.

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