Did you know that the idea of April Fool’s Day actually originated in France?
In fact, the tradition dates all the way back to the 16th century. Since then, the French have laughingly referred to the first day of April, not as April First, but April Fish (or “Poisson d’Avril”).
Why fish? Believe it or not, because of the Christian tradition of Lent. Giving each other a paper fish on the first of April was a way of gently poking fun at all the fish one was required to eat over Lent, having given up red meat until Easter.
The most popular trick played on this holiday is very old school. You cut out a piece of paper in the shape of a fish, and then stick it on the back of one of your friends. It’s that simple. The cut-outs can be plain or elaborately-colored and ornate. And the application of these fish can be anything from a good old “slap on the back” to much more elaborate plots in order to apply the cut-outs as sneakily as possible. When other people notice the fish on the person’s back, they point and shout “Poisson d’Avril!” Roughly translated, that means “YOU…are the April Fish!” School children in particular get a huge kick out of this game. They stick all kinds of paper fish on the backs of their friends, and sometimes, even their parents.
There are other pranks played throughout the day as well, of course. One of my favorites is done by the rail system in Paris. All day on April 1st, Homer Simpson tends to make the public announcements at the train station. Cute, right?
Of course, no tradition in France is complete without a food to commemorate it. And for Poisson d’Avril, it’s fish. All throughout Paris on April 1st, you’ll find plenty of chocolate fish to help you enjoy the holiday. Every chocolatier, boulangerie and patisserie has their own versions. If you would rather have real seafood, every restaurant in the city offers a fruit de mer special of the day as well.
Ever since the United States borrowed the concept of April Fool’s Day from the French, we’ve had to suffer through our friends’ practical jokes. My question is this. WHY, OH WHY, didn’t we steal the idea of chocolate fish too? Ah well!
Bon Poisson d’Avril!
One thought on “April 1st – Poisson d’Avril”
Very interesting !
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