French Tradition: Le Poisson D’avril

The origins of what we now know as April Fools’ Day (Poisson d’Avril in France) is believed to trace back to the sixteenth century in France. During this period, King Charles IX moved the country from the Roman to the Gregorian calendar, prior to which New Year’s Day was celebrated at the end of March. Those who were slow to learn of the new date, along with many who ignored or protested the change, continued celebrating New Year around 1st April. These people became regarded as “the fools” and were subjected to humorous ridicule.

The Expression “poisson D’avril”

The French name for April Fools’, Poisson d’Avril, dates back to one of the first pranks played on this day. A man was sent to the market to retrieve fish on 1st April. Fish season ended in March, so when the runner returned tired and empty handed, he earned the title of the April fish. The tradition in France continues today with children spending the day trying to stick paper fish to their friends’, parents’ and even teachers’ backs unnoticed.  When they succeed with the prank, they shout “Poisson d’Avril!”. Various fish-shaped chocolates and pâtisseries are sold all over France in celebration of this day.