The Poisson d’Avril is a French tradition celebrated every year on April 1st. This is a day when jokes are often played.
As in sending a letter or making a phone call to someone telling them that they have won a big prize or been chosen for an important job, but then informing them that it is a joke.
This tradition resembles Innocent’s Day in Spain and some Latin American countries, celebrated on the 28th of December. Now we will tell you why France celebrates April 1 and what the French usually do on that day.
- Read before you travel: How to use public transportation in Paris
Why is April 1st called Poisson d’Avril in France
The exact origin of the Poisson d’Avril (April’s fish) tradition is uncertain, but there are several theories. One possible explanation is that it is a tradition that dates back to Roman times when the Festival of the Innocents was celebrated on April 1st.
Another theory suggests that the Poisson d’Abril tradition has its roots in the Reformation era when some people in France adopted the Gregorian calendar instead of the Julian calendar.
This led to April 1 becoming the first day of the year instead of March 25, which led to some people teasing those who still followed the old calendar and sending them “Poissons d’Avril” (April fish) as a joke.
One more theory links April Fool’s Day in France to fish. Early April is when the fish reproduce, so fishing is prohibited.
Then came the idea of playing pranks on the fishermen by offering them fake fish to the cry of “Poisson d’Avril!”
And the last theory linking fish to April 1st is Lent and the prohibition of eating meat.
So it was quite normal to give each other fish as gifts, but as a joke, they began giving each other a package with a fake fish inside.
Why French People Make Jokes on April 1st?
Legend has it that the tradition began in 1565. It so happens that until last year the first day of the year had been April 1st. But in 1565, King Charles IX adopted the Gregorian calendar, so the year began on January 1st.
Those who heard the news wished each other a happy new year and exchanged gifts on January 1st, 1565.
But many people did not hear about the change or did not adapt to the novelty and continued to give gifts on April 1st.
To make fun of them, some people thought of playing pranks on them by giving them special gifts or fake gifts to make them laugh…or to laugh at them.
The Poisson d’Avril tradition was inaugurated on that day.
When is the equivalent of April 1st in the rest of the world?
There are other countries where it is also celebrated on April 1st. For example, Poland, Finland, Austria, Australia, Germany, Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and more.
In Spain and Latin America, December 28th is celebrated as April Fool’s Day.
It is known as April Fools Day in English-speaking countries and includes the pranking tradition.
Traditions in France on April 1st
On that day, everyone tries to play rather innocent pranks, either on friends, colleagues, or family members. For example, children glue paper fish on the backs of other classmates.
It is also quite common for the media, even the most serious ones, to publish undeniable fake news so that followers do not doubt that it is something false. For example, they will move the Eiffel Tower to Disneyland Paris park.
Some Parisians still remember that a few years ago, the company that manages the city’s metro decided to change the names of the stations on April 1st.
Another company that often participates in pranks is Burger King, which announced that it would start selling fries by the piece one year.
Would you like to celebrate the Poisson d’Avril in France?
If you like pranks, it’s a great day to be in France. If you are there, take the opportunity to make your jokes; surely they will not expect it from a foreigner.
And if a Frenchman made a joke about the Poisson d’Avril, share it with us.
Plan Your Trip to France
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- Visiting Giverny in spring
- The best free walking tours in Paris
- Road Trip in Provence
- Visiting the Loire Châteaux from Paris