April Fools

Every April begins with April 1st [Duh!] or April Fools Day. Thinking on that spurred my lightning fast mind to ask, “I wonder how that got started?” Well that question sent me off to the internet and a quick search yielded an article entitled “April Fools Day: Origin and History” by David Johnson and Shmuel Ross. [According to Google “Shmuel” is spelled correctly] Here are some excerpts from the article:

April Fools’ Day, sometimes called All Fools’ Day, is one of the most light-hearted days of the year. Its origins are uncertain. Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar.

Ancient cultures, including those of the Romans and Hindus, celebrated New Year’s Day on or around April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian Calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. That year, France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year’s day to Jan. 1. According to a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1. Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on “fool’s errands” or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe.

There are at least two difficulties with this explanation. The first is that it doesn’t fully account for the spread of April Fools’ Day to other European countries. The second is that we have no direct historical evidence for this explanation, only conjecture, and that conjecture appears to have been made more recently.

Another explanation of the origins of April Fools’ Day was provided by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event.

This explanation was brought to the public’s attention in an Associated Press article printed by many newspapers in 1983. There was only one catch: Boskin made the whole thing up. It took a couple of weeks for the AP to realize that they’d been victims of an April Fools’ joke themselves.

April Fools’ Day is observed throughout the Western world. Practices include sending someone on a “fool’s errand,” looking for things that don’t exist; playing pranks; and trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.

My grandfather was a big tease and enjoyed April Fools’ Day. My mom helped us set him up one year. I was about 10 or 11 years old at the time. Our home was actually part of Pa’s farm. [All we grandchildren called him “Pa”] My brother and sister and I walked right by the farmhouse on our way to the school bus stop. With mom’s prompting on this particular April 1st we strode up to the farm house like a small gaggle of geese and I knocked on the door. Soon Pa appeared and I recited my line: “Mom said to come quick! Our calf fell and hurt himself.” As Pa went back in to get his coat, we backed away from the door and waited. He hurriedly stepped out of the door, donning his coat at the same time. In perfect unison we three grandkids yelled out “April Fools!” We were quite proud of ourselves. Pa responded in his own special way. “Holy Jocks,” he said. I never knew what he meant by “Holy Jocks,” but we heard him say it dozens of times.

The Bible has a lot to say about fools, especially in the book of Proverbs. The word “fool” is a translation of the Hebrew word EVIYL. According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary:

“The word is used in Scripture with respect to moral more than to intellectual deficiencies. The ‘fool’ is not so much one lacking in mental powers, as one who misuses them; not one who does not reason, but reasons wrongly. In Scripture the ‘fool’ primarily is the person who casts off the fear of God and thinks and acts as if he could safely disregard the eternal principles of God’s righteousness.”

If we go by that definition then we can only conclude that today’s society is teeming with fools. Of course, we’re limited in what we can do about those around us and their foolishness. But we can work on ourselves, and that, dear friends, is a full-time job!

So, on April Fools’ Day, if you’re planning to pull a prank on someone, keep their safety in mind and don’t demean them in any way. And when it comes to fools, don’t be one!

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