Only in Arizona: Recent memorable local moments perpetuate long-standing tradition of pranking friends and family on April Fools’ Day.

Rule No. 1 for April Fools’ Day pranks: Don’t get anyone’s hopes up.

Like announcing to your co-workers that ADOT is turning Interstate 10 into a double-decker freeway through downtown — No more traffic! Woo hoo! — when they’re not. Or even worse, that there’s Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the break room. Talk about not making friends or influencing people.

Just ask state Attorney General Mark Brnovich about the Krispy Kreme fake out. He took it in stride last year hoping to sink his teeth into one of those sublimely tender raised glazed numbers, only to receive carrots and celery when he lifted the lid on the box. Smooth move, Criminal Division.

“Just when you have your heart set on a strawberry iced doughnut, you get veggies instead. That was a good one,” says Brnovich, obviously being a good sport. “This proves anyone can fall victim to false advertising, even the Attorney General.”

Day’s origins

We’ve been falling for April Fools’ Day jokes like these for generations. So when did all this April 1 tomfoolery begin?

Well, as near as anyone can tell, it goes back a long ways to the French Reformation, when in 1582 the country switched to the modern Gregorian calendar from the outmoded Julian calendar. The old calendar celebrated the new year for eight days, starting the third week of March culminating on April 1. Happy New Year! No, wait, that’s now on Jan. 1.

And since news didn’t travel as fast as it does today, not everyone knew of the change in the calendar and continued to party like it’s 1499, celebrating the new year on April 1. This led to playing tricks on the unknowing such as pasting pictures of fish on their backs, poisson d’avril (April fish), thought to symbolize a young and easily caught fish or a gullible person. C’est tragique!

By areas

But of course with most traditions, humorous or otherwise, there are geographic variations.

In England, you can only prank until noon on April 1. After that, you’re considered “An April Fool.” In Portugal, they throw flour at you as a sign of cleanliness before Lent. And Iranians celebrate the 13th day of the Persian New Year, usually on April 1 or 2, with a day of feast and fun outdoors, then disposing of green veggies, which is thought to stave off bad luck and foster good health.

Taco Bell famously pranked American customers in 1996 saying that they purchased the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and planned to rename it the “Taco Liberty Bell.” Thousands responded, prompting then-White House press secretary Mike McCurry to announce that the iconic monument on the National Mall was now the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial. Bet the National Park Service loved both of those.

Arizona pranks

Anyhow, we’ve been having local April Fools’ Day fun for years.

Salt River Project last year announced a plan to create a massive concrete relief of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt on the face of Apache Dam to coincide with its 106-year anniversary of Roosevelt Dam. Many fell for the joke, which included quotes from a company exec and a photo of crew scaffolding to the fake project on the face of Apache Dam.

“This will be the Mount Rushmore of the Southwest,” Arthur Lier, SRP’s Special Projects manager, said as part of the ruse.

At Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport two years ago, local travel favorite Southwest Airlines reneged on its two free checked bags policy and sent locals into an April Fools’ Day tizzy. The airline posted on its social networks that it’s charging fees for checked bags “because all the other guys are doing it” and poked fun at all the complicated rules of the other airlines charging for red, yellow, green, even plaid bags.

One April Fools’ Day prankster in 2014 was just dumb. Arizona Mills Mall customer 27-year-old Phuoc Tran entered Capri Jewelers and asked to see a $25,000 diamond. He quickly turned his back to the clerk, switched the diamond for a counterfeit, and handed back the phony announcing “April Fools’ ” before departing the store and the mall. When he returned the next day to say it was a prank, Tempe police were waiting and charged him with felony theft.

So remember, have fun on April Fools’ Day. But don’t get anyone’s hopes up — and don’t commit any crimes.

Contact “Only in Arizona” columnist Mark Nothaft at [email protected]. Send him the weird and fun facts and places found #OnlyInArizona.

More Arizona connections

• Locals last year lost their minds when Yahoo! News pranked Trader Joe’s fans by announcing that the quirky grocer planned to close all its stores by the end of the year and discontinue its product line. Not funny.

• But definitely funny was the Phoenix Zoo’s announcement last year of its new “Andean Tortobear,” a PhotoShopped combination of the zoo’s adorable South American bears and mammoth Galapagos tortoises. Two of our favorites in one.

• And then there’s the “house divided” scenario: OMG, did you hear that UA basketball won in the Sweet 16? Equally painful: ASU is going to the Rose Bowl! Funny and tragic at same time.

Prank the kids

• Take the batteries out of the television remote right before SpongeBob or Yu-Gi-Oh! airs. Sorry, buddy, the TV must have died. You can also cover gaming and TV sensors with clear tape to block signal. Pure evil genius.

• When kids are sleeping, add some larger items of clothing to their dresser. When they put them on April 1, they’ll think they shrunk overnight. Along the same vein, add bunched-up toilet paper inside of shoes and they’ll think they outgrew them overnight.

• Add a couple drops of red or green food coloring to the bottom of a bowl and fill with favorite cereal. They’ll receive a surprise when they add the milk.

• This one is for that surly teenager: Switch the bags inside of two boxes of cereal.

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