Have you ever wondered about who we came to celebrate April Fools’ Day/ All Fools’ Day? It has been celebrated for centuries by different cultures, yet its exact origins remain a mystery. Some historians speculate April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize the start of the new year had moved to January 1, so they continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1, and thus became the butt of jokes and hoaxes.
These pranks included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person. Historians also link April Fools’ Day to festivals such as Hilaria, celebrated in ancient Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises.
There’s also speculation April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.
April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain during the 18th century. In Scotland, the tradition became a two-day event, starting with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phony errands (gowk is a word for cuckoo bird; a symbol for fool) and followed by Tailie Day, which involved pranks played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.
In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and websites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims to fool their audiences. In 1957, the BBC reported Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour. In 1996, Taco Bell duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and would rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.
Now that we’ve all survived another April Fools’ Day, let’s be sure we remember some of the great Truths about foolishness the Apostle Paul shared in his letter to the Church at Corinth:
1:18 For the message about the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the Power of God. 19 For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the Wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God. 25 For God’s Foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s Weakness is stronger than human strength. 26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the Presence of God. 30 God is the Source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us Wisdom from God, and Righteousness and Sanctification and Redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)
Rev. Karen Fraser Moore