April Fools’ Day: The history of the holiday

Consider yourself warned. Sunday is April Fools' Day, a day when you are encouraged to pull pranks on loved ones, co-workers, casual acquaintances, and even that one guy at the bus stop. It's an odd tradition, but how did it get started? What's the history of April Fools' Day, anyway?

Nobody is completely sure about the origin of this, the silliest of holidays. However the urban legend experts at Snopes.com say that most experts give credit to Pope Gregory XIII, who, in the 1500s, gave the world the Gregorian calendar.

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In 1562, the Gregorian calendar moved the first day of the year from April 1 to January 1. Word did eventually get around, but some people were a bit slow to hear the news. These folks continued celebrating the new year on April 1, unaware that they were now three months behind the times. These "April fools" were tricked by those in the know. The tradition eventually made its way to the USA.

And it's still going strong. Over the past week, Web searches on "april fools day jokes" and "april fools day pranks" have more than doubled, and related lookups for "easy april fools day pranks" and "april fools day jokes for work" also spiked. Bottom line: Keep your guard up, especially if somebody offers you a word search puzzle. Lookups for "impossible april fools day word searches" are up 200%.

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But really, there is no way to be certain you'll escape trickery. Because on April 1, even corporations are out to trick you. In 1998, Burger King tricked its customers by releasing "the left-handed Whopper." In 1957, the BBC reported Swiss farmers were harvesting spaghetti from trees. And in 1996, Taco Bell took out ads in major newspapers announcing that the company had purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. Shudder.

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