April traditionally begins with a day of jokes and pranks. The origins of April Fool's Day are uncertain. However, many different cultures have had days of foolishness around the start of April. The Romans had a festival named Hilaria on 25th March. The Hindu calendar has Holi and the Jews celebrate Purim. Perhaps there is something about the time of year, with the change from winter to spring, that lends itself to lighthearted celebrations. April Fool's Day is marked in some form or another throughout Europe. In France, 1st April is called 'Poisson d'Avril' or 'April Fish'. French children sometimes tape a picture of a fish on the back of their schoolmates crying 'Poisson d'Avril' when the prank is discovered.
The past twelve months have been very difficult for us all. Many people have suffered illness, hardship and bereavement. All of us have seen our way of life impacted by restrictions and lockdowns. In the midst of it all, it has sometimes seemed hard to find things to laugh about. But humour is an important aspect of our lives as human beings and finding ways to have fun can help to cheer us up in challenging times.
Some people think that Christianity is so serious and important that there can be no room for fun. Christians are caricatured as solemn and sombre people who frown on having a good time. Yet if we look at how Jesus is presented in the Gospels, we see a man who enjoys himself and who likes a good meal and a party. In fact, some of his contemporaries criticised him for socialising too much, particularly with unsavoury characters.
It is believed that some of Jesus' teaching was in the form of jokes, which admittedly get a bit lost in translation. For example, Jesus astonished his disciples by telling them that 'It is much harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.' (Mark 10:25) The image of the camel, which was the largest animal found in Palestine, trying to get through the eye of a sewing needle is obviously ridiculous. Jesus goes on to say that 'This is impossible for human beings, but not for God; everything is possible for God.' (Mark 10:27)
So Jesus was a man who knew how to tell jokes and have a good time. In the church, the Christian year is punctuated by celebrations. All the major festivals are accompanied by feasting. Think of Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide and Harvest. In the past, these were holidays and occasions when the whole community would come together to celebrate and have a party. Both the Christian calendar and the Bible show that being a Christian is not about being serious all the time. It is about enjoying life, celebrating all that is good and rejoicing in all God's gifts to us.
As we look forward, we hope for better times to come and for a return to meeting with one another, to being able to celebrate significant events together and to having more fun.
Wishing you all a very happy Easter
Joy (Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough)
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.