Easter, Passover and … April Fish Day?

If it’s Friday, it must be France …

This is a special holy weekend around the world and this year it is very early on the calendar. I send warm wishes to those celebrating Easter

or Passover ~ chag sameach

As I was doing some reading this week, I came across an article that spoke volumes to me about a meaningful message for both Passover and Easter.  It had to do with hope. I want to share it with you here.

Of course there is also another tradition at this time of year for many children. Fellow author and friend, Margo Lestz has an excellent post here comparing the traditions of children and chocolate at Easter. You may be surprised how the legends differ.

Chocolate is not quite so important at Passover.  But the traditions and foods that go along with the special meal, the seder, are celebrated every year.

Coincidentally this year, in some countries, this Sunday is also April Fool’s Day. For those who haven’t heard before, April 1st is celebrated in an altogether unique way in France.

Imagine my surprise the first time I saw childrenimages sticking paper fish on each other’s back, whispering and giggling, and then hollering, “Poisson d’Avril!”

Excusez-moi? Fish?

As Wikipedia explains: “In Italy, France and Belgium, children and adults traditionally tack paper fishes on each other’s back as a trick and shout “April fish!” in their local languages (pesce d’aprile!, poisson d’avril! and aprilvis! in Italian, French and Flemish, respectively). Such fish feature prominently on many late 19th- to early 20th-century French April Fools’ Day postcards.

April-Fools-vintage-Image-TheGraphicsFairy.com

April-Fools-vintage-Image-TheGraphicsFairy.com

I had no idea where the tradition began and, after a bit of searching, found this explanation on France Travel Guide.

“Although the origin 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

Boulangeries and patisseries deliciously get into the spirit with fish-shaped goodies. Oh … and did I mention the chocolatiers? Schools of fish of all sizes fill shop windows, the larger ones often filled with smaller treats. To a chocoholic, fish never tasted so good!

Since Easter usually falls around the same time, fish feature predominantly in shop windows through that holiday as well.

Maybe we should adopt a symbol for April Fool’s Day in North America, so there would be a good excuse to buy special chocolates on that day over here. Not that we ever really need an excuse for chocolate …

Wherever you are, have fun on April 1st and enjoy some chocolate.

Are you a prankster on April 1st or do you just grit your teeth and hope the day will pass quickly? Is there one April Fool’s Day joke in particular that you will never forget?

On  The Good Life France   (amazing photography and articles ~ you know I’m a huge fan!), there’s another article by Margo Lestz about April 1st in France.  Margo writes perfectly-researched articles, as well as entertaining books about some of the quirky history and traditions of France.  Click here to visit her website!

How will you celebrate this very special weekend?

About Patricia Sands

Family, writing and travel are my passions ... okay, and chocolate ... and I'm seldom without a camera. I write women's fiction and keep in touch with readers by a monthly newsletter that also has giveaways and contests. Come and join us by signing up on the right. See you there!

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