April Fools’ Day – when pranksters roam the countryside unleashed. They wake early and set out in search of innocents who are gullible enough to fall for a hoax. It’s been popular since the 1800’s in the United Stated, India, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Brazil. The history of AFD runs all the way back to a reference in Chaucer’s, Canterbury Tales (Nun’s Priest Tale) in 1392.
“Hoaxes,” according to folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, are “relatively complex and large-scale fabrications”; the deceptions are not playful, but “cause material loss or harm to the victim” [Brunvand, Jan H. (1998). American Folklore: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 587. ISBN 0-8153-3350-1]. Brunvand distinguishes hoaxes from April Fools’ Day events that are passed along in good faith by believers or as jokes [Brunvand, Jan H. (2001). Encyclopedia of Urban Legends. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 194. ISBN 1-57607-076-X].
One of the elements that binds practical jokes, pranks, and hoaxes is intentional deception so that the victim is made a laughingstock. One difference between a joke and a practical joke or hoax is that a joke invites us to laugh with, whereas a practical joke invites the audience to laugh at.
Proverbs 26:18 had something to say about the kind of practical jokes that are played on April Fools’ Day:
26:18 Like a madman who shoots
firebrands and deadly arrows,
26:19 so is a person who deceives his neighbor,
and says, “Was I not only joking?”
John W. Miller, in The Believer’s Church Bible Commentary: Proverbs (p. 252) says,
… one should avoid playing “practical jokes” (26:18). Though the intent is benign, the consequences can be deadly (like a crazy man shooting off firebrands or deadly arrows).
Wisdom and love command that we should always be looking out for one another, to build one another up, to encourage, to be truthful with one another (see 1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Let’s take the opportunity today to counter the often sophomoric, lowbrow attempts at humor at another’s expense to send a note of encouragement to someone going through a tough patch. Pick up your cell phone and, rather than texting or emailing, actually call someone to say how much you appreciate him/her. Make it a special day in a good sense.
No one should be a fool or act foolishly on April 1.