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On April 1, people in many Western cultures celebrate April Fools’ Day by playing harmless pranks on each other. The first recorded hint of April Fools’ Day is found in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), although many scholars think this is a misreading of the text, and Chaucer actually meant May 2 as the foolish day.
 
The European tradition of humor, hoaxes, and practical jokes goes back much further than Chaucer. Ancient Romans celebrated the festivals of Hilaria every March, for instance. These festivals were loosely tied to the vernal equinox—the official start of spring. During one festival of Hilaria, Romans celebrated with games and parties. They also dressed in costume to imitate and even make fun of people in authority.
 
The most famous April Fools’ Day prank is probably the BBC’s “Swiss Spaghetti Harvest.” In 1957, the network played a practical joke on its television audience. Journalists reported that Swiss farmers were harvesting spaghetti from trees! Actors playing farmers were filmed removing long, rubbery strings of spaghetti from branches. Thousands of people fell for the prank!
ancient
Adjective

very old.

authority
Noun

person or organization responsible for making decisions.

BBC
adjective, noun

(British Broadcasting Corporation) semi-autonomous British public-service broadcaster.

celebrate
Verb

to observe or mark an important event with public and private ceremonies or festivities.

culture
Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

festival
Noun

day or other period of time set to celebrate or commemorate an event, usually with a series of parties, ceremonies, or observances.

harvest
Noun

the gathering and collection of crops, including both plants and animals.

hoax
Noun

object or event meant to deceive or fool observers.

imitate
Verb

to copy the style of something.

prank
Noun

mischevious trick or practical joke.

scholar
Noun

educated person.

vernal equinox
Noun

day, usually around March 21, when day and night are of generally equal length. Also called the spring equinox.

West
Noun

having to do with the developed nations of Europe and North America.

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