Poisson d'Avril or April Fools Day in France

31 March 2010


April Fools Day (Poisson d’Avril) in France and Midi-Pyrenees


There is debate over the origins of April Fools Day with some linking it to the change of calendars in the sixteenth century.  The change in France was made by King Charles XIV in 1564, but with the speed of communications slow, not everyone knew about the change. 


The new calendar moved the start of the New Year from 1st April to 1st January.  The theory goes that along with those that did not know about the change other people refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the New Year on 1st April.  The reformists using the new calendar called these people April Fools and played tricks on them.


The problem with this theory is that April Fools Day was already being celebrated in many other countries before the change to the calendar, including Britain.  There also accounts of it dating back to Roman times, where the coming of spring was celebrated with games and practical jokes.


The most famous April Fool joke in Britain is probably one shown by the BBC about the spaghetti harvest in 1957.  Factual program Panorama, presented by Richard Dimbleby, ran a story about the bumper spaghetti crop in Switzerland including pictures of “spaghetti trees”!  There was a mixed reaction with some not seeing the funny side!


In France, the day is known as Poisson d’Avril or April Fish.  Again the origins are unclear, but may be linked to the zodiac sign of Pisces, which falls near to April.  In France, unsuspecting victims have a paper fish stuck to their back and when they eventually discover it they are called Poisson d’Avril.  It is a prank mainly played by school children.


The French media also takes part, so if you watch the French news, be careful of what you believe!


The French not surprisingly celebrate the day with their cooking as well.  Boulangries and Chocolatiers bulge with fish shaped pastries and chocolates in honour of the day, giving the adults an excuse to celebrate the day while the children play jokes on each other.


Have a great day tomorrow and if someone plays a trick on you or you spot something in the media that looks “fishy”, post it in the Midi-Pyrenees Lounge for us all to have a laugh at!




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