Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Yesterday was Easter Sunday. It was also April 1st, or April Fool’s Day.
Whether or not you enjoy being the prankster or wondering what new pranks will befall you, this day of tomfoolery is celebrated throughout the world on or around the first of April. There are several theories as to the day’s origins. Scholars can trace the roots of this day to a Roman festival during the spring equinox (March 25) called “Hilaria.” According to brittanica.com, this festival celebrated the rebirth of Attis, the Roman god associated with the end of winter. Pranks, games, and mask-wearing were part of the festivities. The day might have also evolved from the Feast of Fools, a medieval festival which parodied the Church until the early sixteenth century. The Feast of Fools was celebrated annually on January 1st. However, one of the strongest theories behind the origins of this non-holiday came directly from France….
In 1563, Charles IX of France (1550-1574), with pressure from the Pope, moved the debut of the new year from April 1st (according to the Julian calendar) to the current date of January 1st, which is based on the Gregorian calendar that is still in use today. Gifts and offerings were typically made on April 1st, but since the king changed the date, people started presenting more joke-like offerings in response (or resistance) to the change. Good-willed pranks and revelry became le menu du jour...with fish as la piece de la resistance. It is known as le Poisson d'avril.
What is le Poisson d’avril? Literally translated, this expression is “the Fish of April.” (French months are not capitalized like their English counterparts.) There are a few possibilities why the fish became the symbol of this non-holiday. According to litternaute.com, in the spring, fish are abundant and easy to catch, like the fools who fall for coins glued to the ground, and they are also the food of choice during Lent, the forty days leading up to Easter, the Christian holiday that was intentionally moved to the spring equinox to entice more pagans to convert. Whatever the reason, April 1st is full of fish and pranks. If you are in France, children often place paper fishes on their victim’s backs...This signifies that the person has become a “poisson d’avril,” or a gullible victim of a prankster! There are also other “poissons” or tricks that are played on the general public, like this year's announcement that the Gendarmerie of the Rhone would be using eagles to help them fight crime. (see link)
Did you become the "poisson" this Easter Sunday? Or were you able to avoid falling victim to those silly pranks? Either way, next year, you'll be sure to find someone to be your poisson d'avril!
Le poisson d'avril can appear on the back of unsuspecting persons!