April Fool’s Day in France

Just like in America, April Fool’s Day is a holiday that French children and adults look forward to every year.  In fact, it seems that many European countries celebrate this odd holiday with great pride.  For example, in England, you can tell jokes until noon, but if you tell a joke after noon, people will call you a fool.  The Scottish have extended April Fool’s Day through April 2nd.  In Nordic countries like Norway and Finland, it is customary for all newspapers to publish a false story.  And in France, instead of telling a silly joke or two, French children make paper fish and will spend the day trying to sneakily tape them to adults’ backs, yelling “Poisson d’avril!” (April fish) if they are caught.  Naturally, a silly tradition like this is rooted in history.

We actually all have the French to thank for the inadvertent creation of April Fool’s Day.   Before the 16th century, April 1st was the New Year’s celebration.  However, in 1564, King Charles IX of France declared that the year would officially begin on January 1st.  Naturally, some of his citizens did not agree with the change and continued to celebrate on April 1st.  Devotees of the king would, in mock celebration, give these people fake presents to commemorate the fake New Year.  In time, it became customary to give the non-conformists fake fish.  It is speculated that people began to give each other fish because the Zodiac symbol during that time of the year is Pisces.

Today, the fish has become the French symbol of April Fool’s Day.  Children often look forward to a day of pranks and fish-shaped pastries.  So this Friday, feel free to run around sticking fish to people’s backs.  Just make sure the fish isn’t real.  You can only take a joke so far.


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One thought on “April Fool’s Day in France

  1. Pingback: Easter in France | Sojourner Tours

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