Boy laughing with a book in his lap.

What is this Tom Foolery? 

by Kathryn Larlee, J.D., Hotline Attorney

April Fools Day is upon us and there are wicked family members, friends, and co-workers plotting pranks. The tradition is for folks to pull harmless jokes on everyone around them. Where does all this Tom Foolery come from anyway?

According to Snopes, the custom of pranking “remains shrouded in mystery”.  Some claim that when the calendar changed in 1500 to the Gregorian version, the traditional celebration of the new year on April 1 was moved to January 1.  So, anyone celebrating on April 1 was teased as being an April Fool.

Other sources suggest that many cultures have “days of foolishness around the start of April” so the tradition may have been day of lightheartedness to banish the winter blues and celebrate the coming of spring.

There are two kinds of pranks that are played on this day; one is to send someone out on “a fool’s errand” or to create a hoax to fool people.  In 1998, Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper” and dozens of customers requested the fake sandwich.

Wherever the tradition came from, it is firmly entrenched throughout the Western World and is not likely to go away.  According to Snopes, there are also unofficial rules;

  1. The pranking period ends at noon.
  2. Any jokes after noon will bring bad luck to the person attempting them.
  3. Victims of pranks who do not respond with good humor will also have bad luck.

So, if you are looking to stay alert for pranks, or you are thinking of carrying out a prank or two, here is a link to The Hoax Files, The Truth Isn’t Out There.

Be vigilant, be aware, and don’t fall for it!

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