April Fools' Day by the numbers: Fun and strange facts about the day

While the day has been celebrated by practical jokers for hundreds of years, very few know the origins of April Fools’. 

Here are a few number-focused facts that’ll expand your knowledge about the strange day.

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1 – April Fools’ Day is observed on the first day of April each year. Even though the day’s first official observance is unclear, some historians believe the day might have originated in 16th century France, when some towns switched from the Julian calendar, which celebrated New Year’s Day on April 1 — to the current Gregorian calendar, which celebrates New Year’s Day on January 1, according to History.com. 

French townspeople who failed to observe the New Year in January were reportedly dubbed fools and were targeted for pranks and jokes.

April Fools' Day this year falls on Friday. 

April Fools’ Day this year falls on Friday.  (iStock)

2 – April Fools’ Day celebrations made their way to Britain during the 18th century and eventually to Scotland, History.com reports. The latter country went on to turn April Fools’ into a two-day celebration, which was once called “Huntigowk Day” and “Tallie Day.” On those days, Scottish celebrators reportedly sent people on fake errands and attached faux tails or kick-me signs on the backs of unsuspecting folk. 

12 For April Fools’ Day traditionalists in the U.K. and in other countries under British influence, pranking stops at 12 p.m.

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19 – April Fools’ Day became a notable custom in the U.S. in the 19th century. A standout quote about the day is attributed to American novelist Mark Twain (1835 to 1910), who said, “The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year,” as reported by the Library of Congress.

In the 18th century, Scottish April Fools' Day celebrators reportedly sent people on fake errands and attached faux tails or kick-me signs on the backs of unsuspecting folk.

In the 18th century, Scottish April Fools’ Day celebrators reportedly sent people on fake errands and attached faux tails or kick-me signs on the backs of unsuspecting folk. (iStock)

47 – A YouGov America poll from 2021 found that 47% of American adults find April Fools’ Day to be “annoying” — versus the 45% who find the day to be “amusing.”

59 – The same poll found that 59% of American adults “dislike” having April Fools’ Day pranks played on them, but 46% admitted they “like” playing April Fools’ Day pranks on other people.

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1923, 1934, 1945, 1956, 2018 and 2029 April Fools’ Day and Easter occasionally collide because the Christian holiday is observed on the first Sunday after the spring equinox’s first full moon. 

Therefore, the floating holiday falls on April 1 a few times each century. In the 20th century, the two events shared the same day in 1923, 1934, 1945 and 1956. The last April Fools’ Day-Easter occurrence happened in 2018 — and the next will happen in 2029.

Notable April Fools’ Day pranks in the U.S.

1878 – A defunct tabloid, the New York Graphic, fooled its readers into believing that Thomas Edison invented a food machine that could turn soil into cereal and water into wine, which it accomplished with a convincing ad spot.

1950 – The Progress newspaper (now known as Clearfield Progress) in Pennsylvania shocked local readers with a photo of a flying saucer on its front page, according to hoaxes.org.

1992 – NPR confused American voters when the public radio station’s “Talk of the Nation” show ran a fake segment that Richard Nixon was running for president with a third-term loophole.

1996 Taco Bell pranked Americans with a fake ad that announced the restaurant had purchased the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and renamed it the “Taco Liberty Bell” as a way to help with the national debt.

2016 Google launched and quickly disabled an April Fools’ Day prank that gave Gmail users the option to add a mic drop GIF of a “Despicable Me” minion. The feature was placed right near Gmail’s “send” and “send & archive” buttons, which caused unfortunate circumstances for people who accidentally hit the feature button when they sent out serious emails. 

Google responded with an apology that said, “Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry.” 

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