Today is April Fool’s Day but to me this is still Poisson d’avril.
In France, on April 1, in addition to the jokes people tell each other, children pin a cutout fish in the back of their brothers and sisters, parents, friends, and classmates. The point is to make fun of the unfortunate who will walk around with a fish in his/her back.
Although I have pinned more than one fish on the back of my friends and walked with one on my shirt, at least twice without noticing, it is only when my very American children asked me, “Why a fish?” that I looked up the origins.
It appears that the French King Charles IX decided in 1564 to change the calendar. From now on, the year would begin on January 1 instead of April 1 as it had been until then. On that day people used to exchange gifts in honor of the new year. Many had a hard time adjusting to the new calendar and kept the former tradition.
Their friends made fun of them, and since it was Lent in the Christian calendar, and that people avoided meat and ate fish instead during that religious time, a paper fish was pinned in the back of the foolish ones who kept celebrating the beginning of the year on April 1.
April 1 is celebrated in many countries all around the globe, but the fish looks like a very French tradition in addition to the typical jokes.
Not surprising to see food, once again involved in a French ritual.


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