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April Fool's Day

To explore the background and origins to April Fool’s Day, pointing out that many special days have their origins in some aspect of the Christian Church.

by Rebecca Parkinson

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To explore the background and origins to April Fool’s Day, pointing out that many special days have their origins in some aspect of the Christian Church.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. Ask the children if any of them know what happens on 1 April. Explain that April Fool’s Day is celebrated in many countries throughout the world. In the UK, Australia and South Africa the jokes/pranks are played only until midday. However, in other countries including Canada, France, Ireland, Italy, Russia, and the United States the fun continues all day!
  2. Ask the children if they have ever played an April Fool’s joke, had one played on them, or have heard of something done to anyone else.
  3. Say that two of the best-known jokes played on 1 April 2009 were:

    YouTube decided to turn all their video clips upside down for the day, and gave helpful advice as to how to watch them (see link above).

    A company advertised trainers with a satnav in them to help you find your way around town. The trainers talked to you as you walked along, telling you where you were going! Hundreds of people were interested in buying them (see link above).
  4. Explain that different countries have their own traditions on April Fool’s Day. In France children try to secretly stick paper fish on each other’s backs. When the recipient notices, the child who stuck the fish on shouts ‘Poisson d’Avril!’ which means ‘April Fish’.

    Before the assembly begins you may like to either secretly or with their permission attach a paper fish on the backs of appropriate members of staff who will be present in the assembly. The staff could then be encouraged to turn round for the children to see how the joke is played!
  5. In America a common joke in the eighteenth century was to point up at the sky and shout, ‘Look at that flock of geese!’ If the children looked they would be called ‘April Fool’. Today people are more likely to say, ‘Look, your shoelace is undone,’ or something similar.
  6. Explain that April Fool’s Day is today a bit of light-hearted fun, but as with many traditions its origins have connections with the Christian Church. Ask the children if they can think of any other special days or events that have a religious connection. They might suggest Shrove Tuesday (pancakes), Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day, Christmas, Easter, Halloween).
  7. It is not certain where or when April Fool’s Day began but the most popular idea is that it began in France in the sixteenth century, when new year celebrations, similar to those we have today, were moved from taking place on 1 April to 1 January. Most people did as they were told, but some people chose to ignore it, while others, because of communication difficulties, didn’t hear about the change at all. This led to widespread confusion. People who did not change to celebrating on 1 January became the butt of jokes and over time this developed into 1 April being a special day when jokes and pranks were encouraged; they were called April Fools. Later the Church decreed that every country in the Christian world should change their calendar to make 1 January the start of the new year to give uniformity.
  8. There is a verse in the Bible that tells us something about smiling and happiness. Proverbs 15.13 says: ‘A happy heart makes the face cheerful.’ Let’s try today to make someone else happy!

Time for reflection

Think about your friends. Good friends are there for us when we are sad, they look after us if we are lonely, but they also love to laugh and joke with us.

Jesus had a group of special friends when he was on earth. There is no doubt that he would have laughed and joked with them.

Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you for the fun of the world we live in.

Even when things go wrong, please help us to always see the importance of laughter.

Please help us to make time every day to make someone else happy.

Amen.

Song/music

‘There is singing in the desert’ (Come and Praise, 26)

Publication date: April 2010   (Vol.12 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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