The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

A fishy start to April

Today is the 1st of April and just like in many countries around the world, it's the day of jokes, hoaxes and pranks.  Newspapers and other media publish fake stories but the real speciality in France is the poisson d'avril.  This consists of sticking a paper fish on someone's back and seeing how long they go without realising it.  Once the fish is discovered you shout "poisson d'avril"! Children adore trying to catch out their teachers if it falls on a school day or their parents when it's a day at home.  My elder son has been sporting a fine specimen for a couple of hours as I write this, stuck on his back by his little brother completely unbeknownst to him.

pda collage

Accounts vary as to the origins of the jokes and the fish connection.  The theory with the most credence is that it arose out of a change in the calendar in the 1560s when King Charles IX ruled that the year would, from then onwards, begin on the 1st of January not the end of March as had been the case. The traditional gift-giving period at the start of the new year therefore changed from the beginning of April to the beginning of January, but there were those who found it hard to adapt to the new system and they were mocked by being given fake or joke presents on the 1st of April.  These presents were usually food related and as the date nearly always fell during lent when meat was forbidden, they often consisted of fish or pretend fish. 

As for the jokes and hoaxes in the media, today I read a good one announcing a new law that texting in foreign languages would only be allowed up to 12% of any message.  Any text that went over the quota would be blocked.  With the Academie Française's obsession with the purity of the French language and dislike of English words creeping into everyday usage such as "le week-end", "le parking" and "email" it's the sort of thing that could, just about, be believable and I was taken in for just a split second!

               poisson davril

                                       A very elaborate poisson d'avril by son N° 2

Is April 1st a day of pranks and jokes where you live?  I'd love to hear from you.

 

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Poisson dAvril 1st April traditions France

 

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Comments

  • Guest
    http://Kimberly Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    I love the poisson d'avril tradition. I wish we did that in the US. Did you see the joke by the RATP in Paris? They changed out the metro signs. It was very clever!
    Bises, Kimberly
    #AllAboutFrance

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 21 April 2016

    Yes I thought that was a great one, very clever and original.

  • Guest
    Emily Monday, 11 April 2016

    I absolutely love the newspaper story about foreign language texts. I think I would have been totally taken in... !

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    Tee hee Emily!

  • Guest
    kim - kiwis say oui Friday, 08 April 2016

    Love poisson d'avril! That definitely could be true about the foreign content in text messages haha!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    Couldn't it just!

  • Guest
    Katherine Le Jardin Perdu Friday, 08 April 2016

    Darn it! Had I known I could have had so much fun sticking a fish to my husband's back before he went out the work! Thanks for explaining all about the tradition here in France

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    Next year Katherine!

  • Guest
    Christy Friday, 08 April 2016

    This is hilarious! I bet every year is going to be silly with your boys!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    It usually is Christy, it usually is...and not just on April 1st either!

  • Guest
    Margo Lestz Friday, 08 April 2016

    The city of Nice always does something for 1st of April. The past 3 years it has been in the jets of water at Place Massena. This year it was dotted with boats as if the drunken fishermen accidentally rowed into the fountain. I always look forward to seeing it.

  • Guest
    Tanja/The Red Phone Box travels Friday, 08 April 2016

    I learned from another blogger that they do the same thing in Italy:) fun!:)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    That's interesting to hear, thanks for letting me know that Tanja.

  • Guest
    kerri Friday, 08 April 2016

    I had no idea ! Thank goodness my husband and my brother aren't there on April 1 or else they would be joining in with the little kids! Such nice harmless, real fun. Love it.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    There's no age limit to silliness! My oldest is 16 and he and his mates still do it!

  • Guest
    http://Elizabeth (Wander Mum) Thursday, 07 April 2016

    I had no idea about this tradition - hilarious! Very interesting Phoebe...will know what to do the next time we're in France on April Fool's day. Thanks for hosting #allaboutfrance

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    It's good harmless fun isn't it?

  • Guest
    Lillian Thursday, 07 April 2016

    In Paris they changed some of the metro stops.... Opera became Apero, Parmentier became Pomme de Terre. The signs at Anvers were turned upside down. Quatre Setembre became 1er Avil. It was quite clever. #AllAboutFrance

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    I heard about it and loved it, very clever indeed. I especially love Pomme de Terre! (and apéro!!)

  • Guest
    Ashley Thursday, 07 April 2016

    I love this tradition. I managed to stick a paper fish on my boss' back on the 1st of April. Check out these vintage postcards I bought about the Poisson d'Avril. I think they're hilarious! http://curiousprovence.com/poisson-davril/

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    well done! love to see it being done by adults.

  • Guest
    Harriet Springbett Thursday, 07 April 2016

    Ah, the fishy French! Many a time I've pretended to feel nothing when a child's hand 'surreptitiously' sticks a fish on my back.
    To add to your historical info, I read that the French were the first ones to officially declare the New Year on Jan 1st, and that jokes were played on those who resisted the change or who weren't aware of it.
    The first thing I read on April 1st was that Donald Trump had withdrawn from the elections...

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    Oh if only.....

    Thanks for adding that bit of historical interest Harriet.

  • Guest
    Diane Thursday, 07 April 2016

    I didn't see a single poisson this April 1 and I was sure I would, being that I live by a bunch of schools and see kids walking home all the time. The only semi-weird thing was that an instructor at my gym was fired on April 1 and people thought it was an April Fools' joke, but nope, he really was let go. I was looking forward to a few pranks! #allaboutfrance

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    Oh no, that's awful about the gym instructor, what bad taste to do it on that date. My son got exam results as to whether or not he'd got into an international school on the 1st and we joked that we wouldn't be able to trust the results...but it was OK, he passed and it wasn't a joke!

  • Guest
    CKA Thursday, 07 April 2016

    Well, I certainly learned something from your post. I had no idea about the origins of April Fools or the French tradition surrounding "poisson d'avril."

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    Well now you know Carolyn, maybe next year you'll stick a fish on someone's back!!!

  • Guest
    Fritha Strickland Sunday, 12 April 2015

    I have a couple of friends with April 1st birthdays! x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 12 April 2015

    funnily enough I know 3 people too! I bet they had some jokes played on them when they were kids.

  • Guest
    Clare Nicholas Sunday, 05 April 2015

    I've never heard of this but how much fun, and far better than some of the practical jokes we have here

  • Guest
    emma Saturday, 04 April 2015

    I have four friends with birthdays on the 1st!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 12 April 2015

    And I have 3, it's a popular date!

  • Phoebe
    Phoebe Friday, 03 April 2015

    This is a new tradition on me, but an interesting one. I managed to avoid all pranks and hoaxes this year which was rather pleasant. Stephen :o)

  • Guest
    Rachel Friday, 03 April 2015

    I have never heard of this, fun though it sounds, I would probably be the one completely oblivious x

  • Guest
    Kara Friday, 03 April 2015

    We used to do this at school with our French teacher - brilliant fun!

  • Guest
    Boo Roo and Tigger Too Thursday, 02 April 2015

    I much prefer this tradition to practical jokes

  • Guest
    VaiChin Thursday, 02 April 2015

    The fish tradition sounds like great fun. Don't think anything much happens over here.

  • Guest
    Michelle Thursday, 02 April 2015

    Haven't heard of this tradition before - sounds like a lot of good fun!

  • Guest
    lisa prince Thursday, 02 April 2015

    I try to ignore all the april fool jokes , they have become rather upsetting or silly and some are nasty , not even nice funny jokes but scary and hurtful, i try to stay clear of them now , its not what it used to be

  • Guest
    Jaime Oliver Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    i think i missed all the april fools this year .. thankfully .. your sons drawing is fab though! ... although sticking the picture on the back is probably a good job doesn't happen here .. i am so dozy i would never realise! ... although i love traditional things like this :-)

  • Guest
    Louisa Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    This is a lovely tradition. Some jokes can be a little cruel but this is funny :-)

  • Guest
    Mari Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    That is an elaborate drawing and i love hearing the origins. I've heard a few people moaning about April Fool's Day today even a Radio 1 DJ who is tired of falling for them.
    No poissons here ... I don't think.

  • Guest
    angela hamilton Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    Haha love this what a lovely post!x

  • Guest
    hannah staveley Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    Hahhrrr love it. Did not get anything played on us a work thank god lol .

  • Guest
    Becky Friday, 04 April 2014

    Love this! I just showed my kids and they said they wished we did that in the US!

  • Guest
    Becky Brown Wednesday, 02 April 2014

    Being quite new to France (we moved here last year) we're quite new to this so we'll have to get into it next year. Looks fun for kids! I always manage to fall for some April Fools Joke. One year the BBC reported on a story that penguins could fly and yes...I believed it!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Wednesday, 02 April 2014

    Welcome to France Becky and thanks for popping over to my blog. You'll find plenty of other stuff here on French culture if you're interested, so do take a look around. I'll head over to your blog and have a look around later. :)

  • Guest
    ohlalamaman.blogspot.fr Wednesday, 15 May 2013

    Haha! This is lovely. I didn't see any article hoaxes this year but a few years ago I was completely taken in by one in Metro about the mouse community in the Underground in London. I love April Fools Day, it's funny that so many countries have similar traditions.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 17 May 2013

    Thanks for popping by and commenting, I really appreciate it. I love the hoaxes in the media and I agree it's fascinating that so many countries share this farcical day. Come back again soon :)

  • Guest
    Delia @ Blog Formatting Monday, 08 April 2013

    Oh, how I hated Poisson d'Avril in school :) I was always worried somebody would make fun of me and could not stand it! This year we were lucky it was on a weekend day so no major pranks for the kids to talk about or complain about!

  • Rosie @ Children Friendly Holidays
    Rosie @ Children Friendly Holidays Monday, 08 April 2013

    I have to say I was momentarily caught off guard with the text hoax - like you say, knowing France it *could* so nearly be true!

  • Guest
    Emily Wilke Sunday, 07 April 2013

    This is a great post! I would prefer a fish taped to my back over the mean ones my best friend gets me with every year!! It also relates to a blog post I did about April fools...please check it out if you like. http://www.styleavenuestudios.blogspot.com/2013/04/april-fools-dayscrap-it.html?m=1
    Glad I found you through the blog formatting Facebook page.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 06 May 2013

    Thanks for commenting Emily, please keep coming back for more. I'll pop over to your blog too.

  • Guest
    Rin Tuesday, 02 April 2013

    I love son number 2's drawing and it is hard to believe that son number 1 doesn't know it is there - it's almost the size of his back!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Monday, 06 May 2013

    Hi Rin
    That isn't actually son N°1's back with the enormous fish picture; it's actually his dad. It was obvious to me of course but I guess the way I labelled the picture and talked about N°1 being had by N°2 made it look that way. :)

  • Guest
    Rosemary Kneipp Monday, 01 April 2013

    My husband's surname (and consequently mine) is Avril and he never goes to work on 1st April because of all the jokes he would have to put up with!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Friday, 17 May 2013

    Good excuse for a day off! Thanks for commenting and sorry I took so long to reply :(

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