April Fools' Day
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To reflect on the origins of April Fools' Day and how to enjoy ourselves without hurting others.
Preparation and materials
- Make sure that the setting for the assembly feels happy, fun.
- If possible, find a picture of a clown or similar, but this is not essential.
- You could ask some children to provide a display for April Fools' Day, illustrating it with 'good' ideas and 'bad' ideas and their consequences, plus Jesus’ teaching about 'loving our neighbour'.
- Ask the children what they did on 1 April. What was the 'best' joke?
- Briefly give some of the background to April Fools' Day:
– it is celebrated in Europe and the USA
– in England, the one caught out is an 'April Fool'
– in Scotland, he or she is called a 'gowk', meaning a cuckoo or fool
– in France, the term is 'poisson d'avril', an April fish
– there is a similar Indian custom on the last day of the festival of Holi.
Where the custom started is not know for sure. Some say it's connected with the uncertain weather; others say it's connected with the mockery made of Jesus when he was put on trial before his crucifixion.
It may be connected with the old calendar, when 25 March used to be New Year's Day. Long ago, the celebrations would last for a full eight days, known as an octave, and so 1 April came at the end of that time, when the festivities reached their peak and ended.
One of the fables connected with April Fools' Day is from Roman times, a story about the beginning of April, when the beautiful Persephone was in the Elysian meadows. While gathering daffodils, she was taken to the underworld by Pluto. Persephone's mother heard her screams as she was rushed away and tried to find her, but all in vain. It was a ‘fool's errand’ trying to find where her daughter's screams came from.
- While, we are having fun on April Fools' Day, we need to be mindful that 'making fun' of somebody else can be hurtful. It's important to strike a balance between good-humoured, responsible amusement and being unthinking or cruel.
- Ask the children to contribute some ideas regarding:
– the sorts of tricks or words that can be hurtful
– our feelings when cruel tricks are played on us (especially if they are played often)
– the lingering memories of being the butt of unthinking or hurtful words.
- Jesus' teaching is that we should 'love each other as much as we love ourselves'. Unthinking and hurtful behaviour doesn't have a place in being like that, but Jesus didn't mean we should go round being 'serious' all the time either.
Time for reflection
You might like to read Ephesians 5.15–17, preferably from a children's Bible or a version in modern English.
Thank you for making me.
Thank you for making me as I am.
Don't let me take myself too seriously.
Please don't let me hurt my friends or anyone else.
Thank you for the times when we laugh and are happy together.
Be with us now as we think about those who can't be happy today.
Put into our minds what we can do to take away their sadness.
'Father I place into your hands . . .' (Junior Praise (Marshall Pickering), 42, Mission Praise (Marshall Pickering), 133 or Songs of Fellowship (Kingsway Music), 96)