April 1 marked the beginning of the new year
until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII ordered the use of the Gregorian
calendar that made Jan. 1 New Year's Day.
But some people didn't know about the new schedule or perhaps they just didn't think it made any sense. So they continued to celebrate on April 1 — but were called "fools" for doing so. That's the origin of our annual day of pranks and practical jokes.
All the world's religions have had a place for holy fools — clowns or tricksters — who encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously. Through silly stories, surprise endings and unexpected developments, they tease us into a fuller appreciation of the paradoxes and mysteries of life.
Jesus incorporated some playful elements into his parables. Francis of Assisi called his early followers "Jesters for the Lord." That puts us in excellent company when we celebrate April Fools' Day. Play can be a spiritual practice.
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