April fool

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 12:00am

In many countries around the world, the first day of April is dedicated to fools. It's a day for playing jokes and pranks on people, but in a light-hearted manner.

The origins of April Fool's Day is unclear. But most people believe the fun fest originated in France in 1582. Prior to that year, the New Year was celebrated for eight days from March 25 to April 1. That changed when King Charles IX adopted the Gregorian calendar, making New Year's Day fall on January 1.

Stubborn people who refused to accept the new calendar - or those who were absent-minded - were labeled as 'fools'. They received foolish gifts and invitations to non-existent parties. In France, the most common prank is to tape a picture of a fish on someone's back on April 1. The victims are called 'poisson d'Avril' or 'April fish'.

The custom of playing practical jokes and pranks on April 1 spread to other countries. In England, pranks are supposed to end by noon and the victims are called 'noodle'. But in Scotland, the tradition is celebrated over 48 hours. The first day is known as 'April Gowk' (gowk is another name for a cuckoo bird) and the second day is known as 'Taily Day' - the origin of the popular 'kick me' sign posted on the backs of unsuspecting victims. In Portugal, people throw flour at their friends to celebrate the day.

One of the most famous pranks in history is BBC television's 'spaghetti tree' hoax in 1957. The spoof documentary showed a family in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from trees. Afterwards, the BBC received hundreds of calls from viewers who wanted to buy spaghetti trees.

Nowadays, pranks are still being carried out by people around the world, including young people at school.

'I've once told a friend we needed to go to school a day earlier than school actually began,' said Jisoo Kim, 17, from Island School.

The unsuspecting student waited for the school bus - which was not running that day - before finally deciding to take a taxi to school, which he found deserted.

'Thankfully, this friend didn't take it too seriously and laughed it off,' Jisoo said.

Cheung Ying-wah, 17, a student at Sha Tin College, described a common prank carried out in her school: 'My schoolmates will shade the entire edge of a coin with ink. They will later hand someone the coin and say, 'I bet you can't roll the coin down the whole centre of your face.' Anyone who falls for it ends up with a line down their face.'

Paul Sargent, 16, from Island School, said: 'The most impressive prank that I've seen was when my cousin left his computer on and his brother found his coursework files. He moved these files onto a CD before deleting them from his hard disk. His brother then ripped up his printed copy of his coursework. This had my cousin going mad for days.'

All in all, April Fool's Day is a day for harmless fun and the pranks shouldn't be taken too seriously.

Jisoo advised: 'Pranking on April Fool's Day is just too predictable. A true prankster looks for the unexpected moment. Be original or very unoriginal. Don't settle for anything in-between. And if you're a victim and you know it's a prank, just play along. That way, you're fooling them into thinking you're being pranked. It's all fun, so never take it to heart.'

Tsao Chun-See, 14, who studies at Chinese International School, offered his words of wisdom for the day of folly: 'Don't get caught. Or if you do, use the old alibi of April Fool's Day to get out.'