Poisson d’Avril – April Fools

All Fools Day is celebrated 1 April each year across much of the world. It is a day of hoaxes, practical jokes and all around good humour.  Many people believe that the holiday originated in France. Few facts are available and you will make up your own mind. Regardless, it is just a bit of silliness and fun in a world with too little silliness and fun.

French Origins of April Fools Day

Although the origins of April Fools is obscure and debated, the most widely accepted explanation actually credits the “holiday” as starting in France. The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool’s Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.

The theory goes like this: In 1564 King Charles XIV of France reformed the calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1. However, in a time without trains, a reliable post system or the internet, news often traveled slow and the uneducated, lower class people in rural France were the last to hear of and accept the new calendar. Those who failed to keep up with the change or who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st, had jokes played on them. Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools—and so the tradition was born.

Poisson d'Avril
Poisson d’Avril

Today, those who are fooled on 1 April are called the “Poisson d’Avril or April Fish. It is common especially among school-aged children to place a paper fish on the back of an unsuspecting person. That person is declared a “Poisson d’Avril.

Often you can find a large Poisson on the last page, first section of the morning newspaper or le journal.

Le journal
Le journal – L’INDEPENDANT

Most mornings I read le journal at the local café. Sometimes I buy a copy from le boulanger, Jacques.  This morning he had the lovely, fruity Poisson d’Avril made up in a flakey puff pastry with pastry cream and your choice of apricot (apricot) or fraise (strawberry). He is a lovely man who lives in the village and has several family members working along side him.

Jacques's son
Jacques’s son

Of course there is always croissants, pain au raisin, baguettes and much more. If other shops are closed you can pick up milk, honey, jam, coffee and more here.

La boulangerie
La boulangerie

While I have you here just outside the bakery, I want to share something that I really love. Outside some businesses are old metal signs that without words, show you exactly what kind of shop it is. Despite the wind today, I have taken a photo of the one outside the bakery. Unfortunately, it is at an angle due to the strong wind. However, I think it is charming and there are a few others still around but you do have to look up for them. Great care in design is taken to tell a story in picture.

Sign for the bakery
Sign for the bakery

I do believe if you look closely you can see the moon over the sleepy village while le boulanger is watching his oven. They are reminiscent of a quieter time and I do love each of them that I have found.

Perhaps when I have collected enough photos of such signs, there will be a blog post on those.

Poisson d’Avril or April Fools!



32 thoughts on “Poisson d’Avril – April Fools

  1. I love this post! How fascinating to learn of the probable origin of April Fool’s Day! I have often wondered but never bothered to find out. And the edible fish look yummy! 😊 xxx

    1. Well, I certainly wouldn’t question the origin! 😉 Regardless of what one chooses to believe, it is fun and it wouldn’t be French if there wasn’t some food involved.

  2. What a lovely way to start my day….I could almost smell the bakery…ah le bon pain!…..and those signs are wonderful, I hope you find enough of them still around to make a collection! Careful, now, not to end up with a poisson on your back…..

    1. Ah yes, le bon pain… someone has to have it! 😉 No poisson for moi! Not on my back at least. I’m glad you enjoyed the sign, I just love them.

  3. Fun to learn the proposed background of April Fool’s Day. Now you’ve got me wondering if the boys I took care of as an au pair girl in Paris long ago stuck a fish on my back. Perhaps I was the “Poisson d’Avril” and didn’t even know it. 😉

      1. Ha, true. Like the time my youngest son stuck a sticky note to the back of my sweater with the word ‘Loser’ on it. I had it on all day. Both my sons got a good laugh out of that one! (Oh, okay, I did too.)

    1. Well, it was the first so I decided to go with it. I’m going to try to collect more of those sign photos (many of the old villages still have one or two) I think they deserve a post of their own! 🙂

      1. I will keep an eye out for weather vanes as well but I am hooked on those signs. My neighbour who is an iron monger has one as well so there are two here… 🙂
        There are still rings built into properties where the horses would be tied.

      2. For me, living here is a huge treasure hunt and if someone else enjoys what I find, all the better! 🙂

  4. Lea I have been educated today by means of your post. I often wondered where April Fools came from. Thanks for enlightening me. I must say I adore the metal signage and can’t wait till you do a post on your collection. I was a huge fan of the signage when I lived in London especially pub signs don’t ask me why they appealed to me.

  5. Kath, no doubt some will find a different origin but it works for me. It is all in fun here. As for the signs, I just love them but have very few photos so far. I hope to change that as the weather improves and hope that before too long can do a post about the signs as I am fascinated by them.

      1. Kath, I am so pleased that you enjoyed it. Yes, I do agree with Jacques interpretation of le poisson! 😉

  6. This is all beginning to make sense now ~ my French friends always give me fish on April 1st and I never understood why 🙂

    Great post, very insightful…and those pastries look great (which being France does not surprise me much). Cheers to a great week!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed Poisson d’Avril. I am grateful to Kath Unsworth for linking us to your blog. A votre santé!

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