Archive for Sunday, April 2, 2006

April Fool’s Day serious business in Europe

Newspapers try to outdo each other in yearly competition

April 2, 2006

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— When it comes to April Fool's Day, Europe's media are having the last laugh.

Britain's Daily Mail reported that British Prime Minister Tony Blair repainted the traditionally black front door of his Downing Street office "socialist red" to match his Labour party colors. The Times ran a story about a new song-activated credit card security system called "Chip 'n' Sing."

Neither is true of course, but two centuries after the tradition began, media outlets still try to dupe the gullible in an unofficial yearly competition.

Some say April Fool's Day started with the creation of the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, which changed the starting date of the new year from April 1 - or April Fool's Day - to Jan. 1; others point to Indian and Roman festivals that celebrated tomfoolery.

Another theory dates back to the 17th century, when British villagers would strap an effigy of the town's fool to a horse and parade it through the village.

Some of the better efforts:

¢ The Rome daily Il Messaggero reported that a new group in the city of Aquil had persuaded officials to cover up monuments in the main square by dressing the naked men and women with clothes of bronze.

¢ Sweden's daily Dagens Nyheter scared thousands of bicyclists by claiming that Stockholm's city government would impose speed limits of 12 mph on bikes in the inner city.

¢ The Moscow daily Moskovsky Komsomolets turned the day into a contest, offering free subscriptions to callers who identified false stories. Its gag stories included a secret research institute where Kremlin candidates to succeed President Vladimir Putin undergo scientific testing, and plans for a parliament building where lawmakers' offices would boast a bar, a balcony and a Jacuzzi.

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