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Joke's on You - It's April Fools' Day

by Mr Yellow

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We're summing up everything from the day's origin to memorable jokes.

Dreaded by most of us but eagerly awaited by serial pranksters everywhere, we're obviously talking about all things April Fools' Day! So, take a break from looking nervously over your shoulder today and let's see what the hype is all about.

The Origin of the Antic

Despite its widespread popularity, the origins of the day still remain relatively unclear. Some claim that April Fools' Day bears a passing resemblance to the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria where the celebrations included merriment, tricks and disguises. There also seems to be a link with the medieval Feast of Fools. This celebration originated in the North of France before spreading to other parts of Europe and essentially made fun of church rituals by electing mock popes and clergymen. It is also in France that the poet Eloy d'Amerval made reference to a poisson d'avril (April fool or literally translated to fish of April) in 1508. 

Another widespread practice was that of sending gullible peasants on fools' errands throughout the late 1600s. It is also during this time that the British writer John Aubrey referred to the 1st of April as "Fooles holy day" in 1686 while unsuspecting individuals were tricked into attending an event that was supposed to feature the "washing of lions" at the Tower of London on the first day of April 1698.

Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether these ancient festivities and traditions are related in some form to the modern April Fools' or whether it is simply the case that ancient or contemporary, mockery and mischievousness tend to be intrinsic elements of human nature. 

Around the World in Pranks

The day is a permanent fixture in the Western world and many countries have their unique customs and traditions to commemorate it.

For instance, managing to trick someone on April Fools' in Greece is conducive to a lucky year. It is also believed that pranksters will enjoy bountiful crops. In Italy, France and the Netherlands, April Fools' is traditionally known as "April's Fish" since tricksters typically go round sticking paper fish on people's backs.

In the UK, jokes are only made until midday and any jokes made after this time will result in the prankster being called a fool. April Fools' was traditionally called "Huntigowk Day" and the most common prank includes someone delivering a note with a mock request for help. The day is also observed in Nordic countries (including Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden), the US and Canada with several media platforms publishing fake news.

Il-Ġifa (or April Fools' Shenanigans in Malta) 

Similarly to our Western counterparts, April Fools' Day is also firmly ingrained in Maltese culture and is traditionally known as ġifa, the Maltese word for coward. Many in Malta will take advantage of the day to trick their family, friends or coworkers with practical jokes of varying complexity.

Maltese media outlets also typically enjoy playing tricks on their audiences. In 2014, the Times of Malta caused quite the furor when it published an article that claimed that the EU was targeting calorie-laden dishes such as the Scottish haggis, the Spanish chorizo and you've probably guessed it, the Maltese pastizz. Nothing is more sacred to us Maltese than our food and certainly no one is going to threaten the nation's favourite snack. In fact, not only did the joke boost pastizzi sales (though it's not like we need an excuse to indulge) but it also prompted someone to set up a Facebook page dedicated to saving the golden pastry.

We don't want to blow our own trumpet, but we are quite proud of the prank that we came up with two years ago. So, we took the beloved Yellow and crafted a whole video around the fake launch of Yellow Air, or in other words, delivery of the directory via drones. In our humble opinion, it's one of those classic pranks that never gets old.

Our friends at Lovin Malta are also quite well-versed in the art of pranking. Who remembers the elaborate prank that they pulled last year? The plan kicked off with a somewhat cryptic but emotional message about the launch of Malta's on-demand video subscription service. As the day went on the team rolled out teasers, endorsements from well-known personalities and wait for it, a partnership with Netflix! This was followed by four trailers for Maltese adaptations of iconic international shows like Queer Eye, Chef's Table, Temptation Island and My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, which were all peppered with cameo celebrity appearances for extra credibility.

In other words, let's just say that this was one well-executed prank and there were many who fell for this hook, line and sinker while those of us who were suspicious still really wished for it to be true. Hats off guys!

Memorable April Fools' Hoaxes 

There have been some truly memorable pranks over the years that have earned iconic status.

For instance, in 1835, the New York Sun carried out the first big media joke when it published an article that claimed that astronomers had discovered life on the moon. As it can be expected, The Great Moon Hoax generated a substantial amount of interest and controversy.

Fast forward to the 1950s when the BBC current affairs programme Panorama included a feature about the harvesting of cooked spaghetti strands in Switzerland. The feature was complete with footage of a Swiss farming family cheerfully picking up cooked spaghetti from trees. Spaghetti was still a relatively unknown food item in the UK at the time and many viewers contacted the television station to ask what is necessary to have a flourishing spaghetti tree at home. In 1980, BBC World Service pulled off another big one when it declared that the four faces of the Big Ben clock shall be replaced with digital displays, and if this was not enough, the broadcast went on to say that the clock's iconic hands shall be given away to the first four people who called in. As it can be expected, this generated a fair share of controversy but there were also people who called to claim the supposed prize.

Obviously, April Fools' pranks took a whole new dimension in the online world. We still remember Google launching Google Express' new delivery service, that is, items delivered to your doorstep via parachute. The fake launch was complemented with a glossy launch video complete with interviews with the development team and people receiving birthday cakes in boxes attached to a parachute. The humorous team at Google Netherlands created Google Wind or in other words, windmills that can clear up cloudy skies. And let's not forget Google Gnome; the gadget that diligently takes care of gardening tasks such as controlling lawn mowers and turning on water hoses.

The mobile communications company T-Mobile famously claimed to have created the world's first "smartshoephone", a shoe that supposedly utilises the latest technologies and incorporated sole speakers, retractable smart laces and an in-built fitness tracker. The clothing giant H&M hit the headlines in 2016 when it stated that it would be launching a capsule clothing collection with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. H&M collaborates frequently with celebrities and fashion designers, so the partnership did not seem that unrealistic. The story was made even more believable thanks to images showcasing Mr Zuckerberg's trademark grey t-shirts complete with his signature and jeans with a distinct Mark Zuckerberg x H&M label.

In 2016, the foreign table reservation app Open Table tricked users with the fake launch of a lickable phone app that allows you to taste meals before booking a table (don't worry we're not planning anything crazy for our very own Tablein... just the best restaurants in Malta at your fingertips!).

Speaking of food, there have been a few tricks by some big brand names over the years that are quite noteworthy. In 2014, the juice brand Tropicana stated that it was launching the first-ever all-pulp orange juice drink, while Campbell's Soup claimed that it had formulated a square-shaped spaghetti soup to go alongside its well-known spaghetti loops soup.

The condiment manufacturer Heinz claimed that it was launching a chocolate mayonnaise just in time for Easter 2018. Admittedly, the concoction seemed a tad dubious from the start but stranger things have happened, so you never know. In the same chocolatey vein, Burger King stated that it was launching a chocolate patty sandwiched between a chocolate cake bun and layered with white chocolate rings, raspberry syrup, vanilla frosting and candied blood oranges instead of tomatoes. 

The beverage multinational Coca-Cola also tried to trick consumers into thinking that it shall be adding three new options to its existing range: charcoal, avocado and sourdough supposedly to attract the "Instagram Generation" who tends to favour these flavour profiles. The famous snack brand Doritos also pranked fans into believing that it was launching a bottled water range with the tagline "You're 60% water, make every drop of it bold. Try new #Doritos water."

Despite the obscure origins of April Fools' Day, it's safe to say that there have been some pretty incredible (and in some cases somewhat weird) pranks that have left many annoyed victims. However, while you spend the rest of the day looking warily at the office joker or the resident prankster at home, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you've never made an enquiry about the cultivation of spaghetti and more importantly, you can have pastizzi any time you want.

Interested in April Fools' Day? Check out a local bookstore for books on pranking!

Keep on discovering local with Yellow!

Mr Yellow
About Mr Yellow

With a passion for helping others and a desire to making you more efficient, Mr Yellow has managed to arm himself with powerful capabilities making your daily searches a breeze. Putting his knowledge, creativity and wit into action, he also crafts insightful and engaging articles encouraging you to explore the Maltese Islands and experience new adventures, while offering some interesting tips on a number of topics. Ever-present, Mr Yellow always has your back. 

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