Although April Fools’ Day has been observed for centuries in several countries, the origin of the custom is unknown. While it resembles other festivals — such as the Hilaria of ancient Rome (March 25) and the Holi festival of India (ending March 31) —, the first reference to April Fool’s Day comes from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales“. The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is set on a date “syn March was gon”. In other words, “since March was gone,” or — most readers surmised — April 1. The tale is about the fox, a character that tricks the vain cock Chanticleer. It’s usually regarded as the first April Fool’s prank.
April Fools Day’s timing seems related to the vernal equinox (March 21), when nature ‘fools’ mankind with sudden changes in the weather. Some people have tried to justify that April Fools’ Day can be considered a fairly innocuous holiday that Christians can partake in.
In one of her articles, writer Peggy Fletcher attributes the modern and widespread acceptance of April Fool’s Day to Pope Gregory XIII, who, by decreeing the adoption of the ‘Gregorian calendar’ — named after himself —, moved New Year’s Day from the end of March to January 1st. Although the change was published widely, some people did not get the message and continued to celebrate on April 1st. According to Ginger Smoak, an expert in medieval history at the University of Utah, these people ‘were ridiculed and, because they were seen as foolish, called April Fools’.
Regardless of the historical background of the holiday, in our time, on April Fools’ Day people are given an excuse to “play the fool”. But is that really something Christians are called to do? Personally, I don’t believe it is. Here are a few things we should take into consideration when voluntarily engaging in pranks and other deceitful activities that might cause even the slightest inconvenience to our fellow brethren.
- God is the Author of wisdom, not of foolishness. He expects His servants to seek His wisdom (James 1:5), not play the fool.
- Today, April Fool’s Day is observed in most of the countries of the world. Although it is not a formal holiday in any country, it’s a day for jokes, pranks, and hoaxes. Many of these pranks and hoaxes are mean-spirited and cause either physical or emotional harm to our fellow brethren, which is the opposite of what we are called to do (Ephesians 4:2). Even the pranks and hoaxes that don’t necessarily cause any inconvenience to anyone are generally based on lies. Lying on purpose is a violation of the 9th Commandment.
- If April Fools’ Day falls during the (Great) Lent period, a time when we should strive to live particularly holier lives than throughout the rest of the year, then it goes without saying that engaging in foolish behavior (pranking, tricking, joking on each other’s expense etc.) for an entire day, for the purpose of celebrating foolishness, should be avoided.
- Proverbs 24:9 informs us that God’s Word says, “The thought [devising] of foolishness is sin.” And sin is the breaking of God’s spiritual laws (I John 3:4; Rom. 7:14).
- Foolish talking and jesting displeases God (Ephesians 5:1-4). Christ stated, “…whosoever shall say, «You fool», shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22).
- Christ also condemned engaging in foolishness: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23).
- Also, God commands His people to “Learn not the way of the heathen… For the customs of the people are vain [futile]” (Jeremiah 10:2-3). He also commands, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be you separate” (2 Corinthians. 6:17). As followers of Christ, we should strive to bee set apart, to separate ourselves from the pagan customs, practices and traditions of this world — including April Fools’ Day.
Let me know your opinions about April Fools’ Day in the comments section below. Do you think that Christians should partake in the celebration of this holiday?