At lunch time yesterday it was a very excited child that ran out of the classroom to greet me. She was full of tales of what they had been doing in school that morning, which was somewhat unusual. The normal lunchtime conversation revolves around me trying desperately to get her to enlighten me as to the nature of the mornings activities and Moo responding with and enlightening ‘stuff’ or ‘work”, But today she was full of enthusiasm and tales of her classmates making paper fish, and sticking them to each others clothing.
The purpose of this activity was a little unclear, but I nodded and enthused in all the right places happy that for once I was getting a conversation on the way back to the house.
At the end of the day Moo delighted in telling me that she now had a bag full of brightly coloured paper fish and we could all have one stuck to our backs when we got home. Super.
True to her word when we arrived at the house she emptied out her bag and proceeded to go around sticking paper fish to JJ and I. When ‘flat daddy’ called he was treated to paper fish stuck on the web cam and a shout of ‘Poisson d’Avril’ from a very excited child.
From what I could gather this was indeed the correct phrase to shout when the paper fish was discovered. I was a little confused and a lot intrigued by this point and decided that further investigation was required.
Within just a few minutes I had all the answers and more, I love the internet.
There are a few theories as to the origin of Poisson d’Avril, but it is of course the French ‘April Fool’.
Although the origins of ‘April Fools day’ is obscure and much debated, the most widely accepted explanation actually credits the “holiday” as starting in France. 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 travelled 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.
OK so that’s the date sorted out, but why on earth do they stick a paper fish on your back?
Well, it is possibly this:
Late March and Early April is the time of year when French waterways are teeming with freshly hatched fish who have not yet learned the wicked ways of the fisherman’s hook and lure and these young poisson d’Avril are extremely easy to catch.
It would seem that would correspond quite nicely with the idea of ‘a fool’ being easy to trick hence the comparison to the gullible fish.
There is, of course, another theory which is that a fish symbol is used as it is the time of year that the moon leaves the Zodiacal sign of Pisces , the fish.
I prefer the first theory, it’s much more fun.
So now I can proudly wear a fish on my back safe in the knowledge that everyone in France know that I am a fool.
On second thought, perhaps it’s time to take it off now.