Tuesday, April 2, 2013

April Fools in Paris - watch out for fish

Picture this - a man enters his office in Paris. He nods to the receptionist, his boss and hears guffaws in his wake. Does he have something stuck to his shoe? Non, he's been stuck with a fish.
Gallic humor calls for the traditional joke is pinning a fish - these days a picture - on another's back. When it's discovered they yell 'Poisson d'Avril'

Although the origins of April Fools is obscure and debated, the most widely accepted explanation actually credits the April Fools as starting in France. The most popular theory about the origin involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.

The theory goes like this: In 1564 King Charles XIV of France reformed the calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1. However, in a time without trains, a reliable post system or the internet, news often traveled slow and the uneducated, lower class people in rural France were the last to hear of and accept the new calendar. Those who failed to keep up with the change or who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st, had jokes played on them. Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools—and so the tradition was born.

Today a common prank - not only among school-aged children - is to place a paper fish on the back of an unsuspecting person. When the paper fish is discovered, the victim is declared a “Poisson d’Avril.”
While it is not clear of the origins of fish being associated with April 1, many think the correlation is related to zodiac sign of Pisces (a fish), which falls near April.
If you are looking for an easy way to prank your friends or family, doodling or cutting out a paper fish and sticking it on the back of an unsuspecting victim is an easy way of commemorating the origins of April Fools’ Day.
Of course as someone who enjoys France in large part because of all the amazing food, my personal favorite part about Poisson d’Avril are the plethora of bakeries and cholocatiers that make fish shaped pastries and chocolates in honor of the holiday.
Cara- Tuesday 


  1. With the bleak fishing available these days in the Aegean, sounds like there's a lot better chance of hooking one on the streets of Paris. At least on April 1st. And poisson.

  2. Cara, it is fish in Italy, too, where the butt of the jokes "e' un pesce." As in all the culture they share, the Italians would probably say the French got the idea from them and the vice is also versa. Which is all part of the fun.

  3. I loved this post and mentioned it in my weekly newsletter for Murder Lab (www.murderlab.com). Please let me know if you'd like a copy!