April Fools is a custom associated with making jokes (Prima Aprilis) and dates back to Roman times. At that time, or more precisely, on March 25, the Hilaria festival took place, which was celebrated on the occasion of the vernal equinox and the worship of the Phrygian goddess of fertility, harvest, spring, and defensive cities. March 25 was an extremely positive day, full of joyful celebrations of Attis’ resurrection – Cybele’s lover. The cult of Cybele and Attis spread in ancient Rome during the reign of Claudius. On this day, people enjoyed the nascent nature, there were masquerades, and games, and everyone was cheerful. In addition, on that day, the Romans were also supposed to make fun of friends and family.
The Biggest Hoax
Many, many years later, the custom persisted in spectacular form.
The spaghetti tree hoax is a famous 3-minute hoax report broadcast on April Fools’ Day 1957 by the BBC current affairs program Panorama. It told a tale of a family in southern Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from the fictitious spaghetti tree, broadcast at a time when this Italian dish was not widely eaten in the UK and some Britons were unaware that spaghetti is a pasta made from wheat flour and water. Hundreds of viewers phoned the BBC, either to say the story was not true or wondering about it, with some even asking how to grow their own spaghetti trees.
Decades later CNN called this broadcast “the biggest hoax that any reputable news establishment ever pulled.”
Enjoy the day, people – and enjoy your spaghetti!
(Many thanks to Jakub Janinski for the info on the Roman origins of the day and the Roman statue photo)