[Seriously?]  Earlier April Fools’ jokes

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‘If you start playing your April Fools’ pranks on 1 March, the surprise effect will be greater. And so therefore will the laughs.’ Photo Shutterstock

Phenologist Arnoud van Vliet thinks humans need to adapt more to nature.

It is part of the springtime ritual: April Fools’ Day on 1 April, when we play jokes and pranks on one another. But is that still an appropriate date? No, says phenologist Arnoud van Vliet. Spring is starting earlier and earlier, so he says we need to bring April Fools’ Day forward too.

I propose making it 1 March. We can call it something like March of the Fools.

For decades, Van Vliet has been monitoring when the first snowdrops peep up above the ground, when the first crocuses appear and when willows start flowering. Nothing escapes the eagle eye of the Wageningen phenologist. And his conclusion is clear: nowadays, spring arrives some five weeks earlier than in the past.

According to Van Vliet, humans need to adjust too. ‘We will have to keep up with this rat race we ourselves set in motion. In the past, 1 April was when spring was just starting. Everyone was in a good mood, which is the perfect condition for a practical joke. I personally have fallen for them many a time: hey, you’ve got a hole in your trousers! Ha ha ha, that one always works. Especially if it’s not true, of course.’

But the times are changing, as Van Vliet knows better than anyone. That is why he came up with the plan to bring April Fools’ Day forward. ‘I propose making it 1 March. That will be OK for the time being at any rate. We can call it something like March of the Fools.’ Van Vliet wants to announce his plan in style next Monday.

The inventive phenologist points out another benefit to bringing April Fools’ Day forward. ‘On 1 April, you basically expect to get taken for a ride. If we shift it to 1 March, the surprise effect will be much bigger. And so, therefore, will the laughs. I tested it out on my own wife at the start of the month. Honey, there’s a ladder in your tights. It didn’t work so well because it happened to be true. But even so.’

Elaborating on the idea, Van Vliet ponders whether we could bring the May break forward, or officially shorten winter and have summertime start on 1 February. ‘We have no option really. Nature is not hanging around.’

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