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April Fools’ Day: origins and our favourite hotel pranks

From a prank-playing fox to the world’s first hover hotel, here are the weird and wonderful stories surrounding April Fools’ Day.

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When 1st April comes around every year, we know it’s a day when we should be on high alert for April Fools’ Day jokes. Exactly why this day of the year has become synonymous with pranks is a matter of much debate.

Some say April Fools’ Day comes from The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, written in 1392. In the tale, a fox plays a trick on ’32 March’ – which has been interpreted as meaning 1st April, although many scholars disagree that this is what Chaucer meant.

Others say that April Fools’ Day started in the Middle Ages, when New Year’s Day celebrations culminated on 1st April in many towns in Europe. People who celebrated the beginning of the year on 1st January apparently made fun of those who marked the occasion on 1st April.

However, it’s said the first known records of April Fools’ Day start in the 1500s. This ties in with the beginning of fishing season in many countries in Europe, when fish are allegedly found in more abundance from 1st April onwards. The day became known as April Fish Day – a term used interchangeably with April Fools’ Day, because of the foolishness of the fish for being caught!

Whether these supposed April Fools’ Day origins are fact or fiction, we do know 1st April is a day people across the world have embraced for playing practical jokes. In the UK, a tradition has unfolded whereby it is only acceptable to play practical jokes up until midday on 1st April. If someone plays a prank after midday, it is them rather than their victim who is considered the fool!

In Poland, April Fools’ Day is taken very seriously, when apparently the most official institutions are sceptical of anything that is said or agreed on 1st April. In fact, an alliance document the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I, signed on 1st April 1683 was later backdated to 31st March to ensure people know it was serious!

There are some countries that still know April Fools’ Day as April Fish Day, including France, Belgium and The Netherlands. On this day, people try to attach a paper fish to their victims’ backs without being noticed!

To celebrate April Fools’ Day at The Runnymede on Thames, we’re sharing our three favourite hotel-related April Fools’ Day pranks…

Whiff & Wake Service

On 1st April 2017, Travelodge in Australia announced the launch of its new Whiff & Wake Service. This was said to entail the smell of frying bacon being blown into guests’ rooms to help them wake up. The hotel chain said the new service was in response to an increasing number of guests reporting to struggle with snoozing through their alarm clocks!

Hover Hotel

On 1st April 2009, the agency TTG Digital said it was going to open the world’s first ‘Hover Hotel’ in Dubai. Said to be a 20-room boutique hotel, it was apparently going to hover approximately a kilometre off the ground!

Leaning Tower of Pisa hotel

On 1st April 2015, The Telegraph reported that Italian authorities were planning to turn the Leaning Tower of Pisa into a hotel called 3.99 Degrees. The newspaper claimed to have learned about the plans from a leaked document, which stated the hotel rooms would cost more than £14,000 per night. The article even stated a local carpenter had offered to make special beds with legs of differing lengths, so guests didn’t have to sleep at an angle!

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