April Fool’s day isn’t just common in the English-speaking world. In fact, this strange holiday is celebrated throughout many countries the world over. The origins are unclear, though many suspect the roots of April Fool’s day to be French in origin. In Germany, the concept of being made a fool of in April seems to date back to at least the 17th century. Although exactly when this transformed into a set holiday celebrated (or dreaded) annually on the first day of April is a mystery, the oldest April Fool’s joke to be published in a German newspaper dates from the late 18th century and encourages readers to try out silly advice for breeding multicoloured hens.
So, what can you expect on April Fool’s in Hamburg? While there are no particular jokes traditional to North Germany, you should keep an eye out for tall tales, pranks, fake news stories, tricks, etc. If you do fall victim to the day, your tormentor will likely exclaim, ‘April, April!’ which you can take to mean any discomfort or confusion should be taken in good-spirited fun.
Although the Germans might not be known for their humour, they have been responsible for some clever April Fool’s jokes over the years. For example, a German gardening magazine caused a rush on sunflowers in 1901 after publishing an article claiming that the large yellow flowers glowed in the dark. Journalists haven’t slowed down on the laughs in the intervening years. In 1994, a Cologne-based radio station ran a story saying that local joggers should keep their speed below ten kilometres an hour so as not to disturb squirrels during mating season, while in 2004, Berlin paper Tageszeitung reported that the American embassy would be relocating to get away from the French embassy across the street. And perhaps best of all, our own Hamburg.de ran a story in 2018 claiming that the newly finished Elbphilharmonie was sinking into the river at a sharp southwesterly angle. The story (and accompanying photo) was convincing enough that similar rumours persist to this day.