Did you know that in France and French-speaking countries there’s this thing with April Fools Day, where the kids sneak up behind an adult and stick a paper cut out of a fish on their back? Yes it is a thing and they call it Poisson d’Avril – April Fish.
There’s mixed information about the tradition, but essentially it goes back to 1563 when the French King Charles IX (or 1582 with Pope Gregory XIII depending on your internet reference) decreed that all of Europe would switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. That meant that New Years day moved from 1 April to 1 January.
So apparently what happened out in the French countryside, many folks didn’t know about the change or perhaps didn’t want to change the calendar and they continued to ring in the new year on 1 April.
The more “enlightened” citizens would laugh at these “fools” and play tricks on them, and secretly stick a paper fish to their backs, hence the term “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish). The symbolism being that the person was gullible like a young, easily caught fish.
There are many more theories about the origins of April Fools Day, but this is something I came across this week.
The shops are displaying chocolate fish, so there must be something to the theory. Although I do think the French have a chocolate for every occasion.