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April Fool

Rumor has it that there is no fool like an old fool, but on April 1, he has company.

Evidently, April Fool’s Day derives from the fact that ancient cultures, including the Romans and Hindus, celebrated a new year on or around the first of April, coinciding with the arrival of spring. In the middle ages, much of Europe likewise observed March 25 as the Feast of Annunciation and the commencement of a new year. In 1582, however, the Vatican king replaced the old Julian calendar with his own, calling for each new year to begin on January 1. According to legend, some failed to get the message – perhaps their banks and insurance companies neglected to mail the new calendars – and they were mocked as fools and traditionalists for showing up in Times Square in early spring, expecting a ball to drop amidst a shower of confetti.

There are other explanations of the origin of April Fool’s Day, but it hardly makes any difference to the fool of the day, playfully and artfully deceived, but sometimes humiliated and even injured.

The Bible seems to have fully preceded April Fool’s Day, but one inspired writer does weigh in: “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death, Is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, ‘I was only joking’” (Proverbs 26:18-19)!

In many cases, the fooling goes much too far and the real fool is probably the one perpetrating the tricks and cruel merriment. He gets to be about like a madman who carelessly fires a gun in the air or juggle swords over the heads of his friends. Sorry you were injured or embarrassed, but “I was only joking!”

Humor is certainly not evil and many jokes, even of the April first variety are harmless and fun, but there must be a line there somewhere. Paul writes, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:3-4).

Some people are too serious or sensitive to accept being the object of jesting. Some jokes plainly go too far and cause the victim real terror, humiliation or loss. The proverbs seem to indicate that only an apology and repentance are sufficient to undo the harm of an April Fool’s Day joke gone awry.