Although there is a widespread custom of celebrating April Fools’ Day (April 1st) – exception made to Spain and Spanish America, which have their Día de los Santos Inocentes on December 28th – Anglo-Saxon people seem to be the ones who most enjoy this date, marked by the playing of practical jokes.
They take this day tricks so seriously, that even mass media succumbed to temptation of committing hoaxes on their public on April 1st. If you don’t believe, just take a look at internet and you’ll find a large list of well-known pranks carried out by radio and television stations, magazines, newspapers and websites in the last fifty years.
Behind one of the most famous April Fools’ Day hoaxes of all time was BBC, the successful, trusted and respected British news channel.
Well then, on 1 April 1957 BBC fooled the nation broadcasting a program called Panorama, in which Richard Dimbleby, its famous presenter, narrated a documentary about spaghetti crops in the borders of Switzerland and Italy.
Despite the doubts about credibility such piece of news would certainly prompt in current minds, a combination of factors made that television program quite reliable, convincing people about the goodness of that tree. Apart from being still a novelty then, television, as BBC itself says, “has gone down in broadcasting folklore”.
Moreover, in the aftermath of two wars, the world was rather a patchwork of countries shut off from the others, when British people barely knew the Swiss or the Italians, their countries, ways of life and economic activities, including what they used to grow in their fields
In addition, most people had just eaten tinned spaghetti – pasta, which were then still in its infancy in the UK, was considered by many as an exotic delicacy – and they didn’t know how it was produced.
The spoof documentary was idealized by a BBC cameraman who had a teacher in his school in Austria who used to mock her pupils for being so foolish, that they certainly would believe if they were told spaghetti grew on trees.
As a result of the transmission – which was watched by some 8 million people when in Britain 7 million homes had television sets – hundreds called the channel the next day to ask about the truthfulness of the story or to tell them they had enjoyed the joke (someone complained that spaghetti didn’t grow vertically, it grew horizontally). But others were interested in obtaining more information about spaghetti cultivation, because they wanted to have their own spaghetti trees. The BBC went on fooling these ones by telling them to “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best”.
Although BBC had been criticised for the trick, more than half a century on, “Spaghetti Trees” remains one of the UK’s most famous April Fools’ Day jokes.
Watch the documentary at Youtube:
By Helga Maria Saboia Bezerra