April Fools' Day is celebrated in the Western world on the 1st of April of every year. Sometimes referred to as All Fools' Day, April 1 is not a legal holiday, but is widely recognized and celebrated as a day which tolerates practical jokes and general foolishness. The day is marked by the commission of good humoured or funny jokes, hoaxes, and other practical jokes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, teachers, neighbors, work associates, etc.
Traditionally, in some countries such as New Zealand, the UK, Australia, and South Africa, the jokes only last until noon, and someone who plays a trick after noon is called an "April Fool". It is for this reason that newspapers in the U.K. that run a front page April fool only do so on the first (morning) edition. Elsewhere, such as in France, Ireland, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Russia, The Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S., the jokes last all day. The earliest recorded association between 1st April and foolishness can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392). Many writers suggest that the restoration of the 1st of January as New Year's Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.
In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392), the "Nun's Priest's Tale" is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Chaucer probably meant 32 days after March, i.e. May 2, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. However, readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean "32nd of March," i.e. 1st April. In Chaucer's tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.
In 1509, a French poet referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally "April fish"), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on the 1st of April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as "Fooles holy day", the first British reference. On 1st April, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to "see the Lions washed". The name "April Fools" echoes that of the Feast of Fools, a Medieval holiday held on the 28th December.
In the Middle Ages, New Year's Day was celebrated on the 25th of March in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on the 1st of April. So it is possible that April Fools originated because those who celebrated on the 1st of January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of the 1st of January as New Year's Day was common in France by the mid-sixteenth century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.
In the eighteenth century, the festival was often posited as going back to the time of Noah. According to an English newspaper article published in 1789, the day had its origin when Noah sent his dove off too early, before the waters had receded; he did this on the first day of the Hebrew month that corresponds with April.
The frequency of April Fools' hoaxes sometimes makes people doubt real news stories released on April 1.
- The April 1, 1946 Aleutian Island earthquake tsunami that killed 165 people in Hawaii and Alaska resulted in the creation of a tsunami warning system, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre, established in 1949 for Pacific Ocean countries. The tsunami in question is known in Hawaii as the "April Fools' Day Tsunami" due to people drowning because of the assumptions that the warnings were an April Fools' prank.
- The death of King George II of Greece on April 1, 1947.
- The AMC Gremlin was first introduced on April 1, 1970.
- In 1979, Iran declared April 1 its national Republic Day. Thirty-one years on, this continues to be mistaken for a joke.
- On April 1, 1984, singer Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father. Originally, people assumed that it was a fake news story, especially considering the bizarre aspect of the father being the murderer.
- On April 1, 1993, NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion Alan Kulwicki was killed in a plane crash involving Hooters of America executives in Blountville, Tennessee near the Tri-Cities Airport. The party were travelling to the Food City 500 qualifying scheduled for the next day.
- The suicide death of Deathrock legend Rozz Williams was on April 1, 1998.
- On April 1, 1999, the Canadian Northwest Territories was split, and the territory now known as Nunavut came to be.
- On April 1, 2002, WWE Raw changed logos.
- The merger of Square and its rival company, Enix, took place on April 1, 2003, and was originally thought to be a joke.
- Leslie Cheung, a famous singer and actor from Hong Kong, committed suicide in 2003 due to severe depression.
- Gmail's April 1, 2004 launch was widely believed to be a prank, as Google traditionally perpetrates April Fools' Day hoaxes each April 1, and the announced 1GB online storage was at the time vastly more than existing online email services (see Google's hoaxes.) Another Google-related event that turned out not to be a hoax occurred on April 1, 2007, when employees at Google's New York City office were alerted that a ball python kept in an engineer's cubicle had escaped and was on the loose. An internal e-mail acknowledged that "the timing…could not be more awkward" but that the snake's escape was in fact an actual occurrence and not a prank.
- The 2005 death of comedian Mitch Hedberg was originally dismissed as an April Fools' joke. The comedian's March 29, 2005 death was announced on March 31, but many newspapers did not carry the story until April 1, 2005.
- On April 1, 2007, the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book came out.
- British sprinter Dwain Chambers joined English rugby league team Castleford Tigers shortly before April 1, 2008. The athlete was attempting a return to top flight athletics at the time following a high profile drugs ban, and his apparent unfamiliarity with rugby led many people to assume this was an April Fools' Day prank.
- On April 1, 2008, it was reported that UEFA would require the Swedish fast food chain Max to close their restaurant at the Borås Arena during the European Under-21 Football Championship due to a conflict with official sponsor McDonald's and a requirement that only official sponsors may operate around the arena. The arena was later replaced as a tournament site.
- On April 1, 2008, Persch announced that the GNOME desktop web browser Epiphany would be switched from Mozilla's Gecko engine to the WebKit engine used by Safari and KDE's equivalent application Konqueror.
- On April 1, 2009, Alan Shearer became caretaker manager of Newcastle United.
- On April 1, 2009, CBS announced the cancellation of the daytime drama Guiding Light after 72 years, with the final episode airing September 18, 2009.
- Also, on April 1, 2009, a Virus/Worm called Conficker was released and spread to millions of computers, releasing personal info and deleting files. This was supposed to be a joke, but random computers throughout America were hit. Before this happened, news media like NBC, Fox News, ABC and CBS told the viewers to install firewalls and updates to their Windows computers before it hit.
- On April 1, 2010, Sony Computer Entertainment released Firmware 3.21 for the Sony PlayStation 3. This firmware disabled the "Other OS" feature on all PlayStation 3 models. The "Other OS" feature had allowed customers to use the PlayStation 3 as a full fledged computer running Linux. Because the "upgrade" occurred on April 1, many people thought that it was a joke.
- On April 1, 2010, Charlie Sheen announced he was considering leaving Two and a Half Men.
- On April 1, 1991, news emerged that David Icke, the British sports reporter, had announced that he was the son of God and that the world was about to end in a an apocalypse. Not surprisingly, many people took the reports as an April Fool. Icke has, however, continued to expound his views.