No time is a good time to be cruel.
That sentiment bears repeating and remembering as we mark April Fool’s Day on Saturday.
Yes, in Western cultures, at least, April 1 annually is a day for jokes and pranks. It’s a tradition that dates to 1700, according to history.com, when people in England began playing practical jokes on each other. The tradition quickly caught on, though the origins of the day, also known as All Fools’ Day, are apparently mysterious.
Other possible origins include the 1582 switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, which moved the New Year from April 1 to Jan. 1; the ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, celebrated at the end of March; or the first day of spring (vernal equinox) because of unpredictable weather, according to history.com.
Whatever its roots, April Fool’s Day was never intended to be hurtful. Though we appear to live in a time and a society that places more value on being tough and mean rather than on being kind, jokes and pranks, if done correctly and kindly, can be a whole lot of fun.
For example, we know of a retired faculty member who once “hid” another faculty member’s class. We know that cherry Kool-Aid drink mix in a shower head can be vastly entertaining, as can posting a funny message on a Facebook page that someone has left open on a shared computer.
We can come up with numerous examples of funny pranks that aren’t painful, don’t tear down others’ self-esteem and don’t commit vandalism. However, we also can name lots of activities that people should not consider as funny pranks on April Fool’s Day. These certainly include doing destructive things to people or animals, posting or sharing hoaxes on Facebook or other social media about deaths, pregnancies, job losses, rumors of drunkenness or infidelity, etc.
Such painful pranks have effects lasting long after the “joke” is done. Grief, depression, low self-esteem, broken relationships and friendships and the costs of repairing damaged property are just a few of the problems that can occur.
We believe in fun jokes. We do not believe in cruelty. The best rule of thumb is to consider whether you would enjoy your “joke” if someone did it to you. If the answer is no, then it’s not a joke. It’s just mean.
Remember: No time is a good time to be cruel.