April 1st is a day for pranks and practical jokes for many people. Most jokes are harmless. Some are hilarious. Some of the best-known practical jokes in recent years have been perpetrated by advertising agencies as publicity stunts. The most memorable stunt, at least for me, was Taco Bell’s full-page ad in the New York Times, claiming Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell, and would soon rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. Another stunt that comes to mind from a few Aprils ago, was Burger King’s advertisement for the Left-Handed Whooper, It was supposedly designed so the condiments would drip from the right side of the bun rather than the left.
No one really knows the origin of April Fools Day. Many suggest it was the result of the shift from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in1582. By the mid1500s, there was a ten-day difference between when the calendar said the seasons were supposed to occur, and when they actually did.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII fixed this problem by introducing the Gregorian calendar, which we still use today. The main difference between the Julian and the Gregorian calendar is that the Gregorian deletes leap days from years divisible by 100, unless they are divisible by 400 as well. In which case, you get that leap day. Yes, it is confusing, but now we are only off one day every 3,000 years or so. Fixing the calendar also meant getting rid of those extra days. Therefore, Pope Gregory XIII declared in 1582, October 4 would be directly followed directly by October 15. The new calendar also moved the observance of New Year’s Day from the end of March (around the time of the vernal equinox) to the first day of January.
Changing to the new calendar did not come easily, and many countries did not accept the new calendar until late in the 19th century. Undaunted and unimpressed with a New Year that now started in the dead of winter, or simply unaware of the change in dates, some people continued to ring in the New Year on April 1 anyway.
According to popular lore, these were the first April Fools. They became the butt of jokes and pranks. Soon, April Fools Day (also called April Fish Day) became an annual tradition in France, and ultimately spread throughout Europe.
The Bible speaks of fools, and people who are described as “foolish.” The most familiar is Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:19-21
“And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry. But God said to him, You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you: then whose shall those things be, which you have provided? So is he that lays up reassure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
The true April fool is the person who places all his focus, energy, time and resources on the things of this life, and neglects his own soul and his eternity. A person who is not “rich toward God” may have everything money and power can give them, but they are fools if this is all they have.
The Apostle Paul said it like this, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (1Corinthians 3:18-19 NIV)
Don’t be fooled by the false security of prestige, power, and wealth. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“ (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)