Here in gay Paree chocolaterie windows have been filling up with chocolate fish in anticipation of the first day of April. And tomorrow, April 1st, kids all over France will be taping paper fish to the backs of their friends, teachers, and loved ones then shouting* “Poisson d’avril!” when this little prank is discovered. Why? No one knows for sure but there are many theories.
One theory credits Charles IX’s edict de Roussillon which moved the start of the New Year from April 1st to January 1st. As the story goes, it took a while (months maybe years) for the rubes out in the provinces to get the news (no internet in 1564). Those in the know mocked their less up-to-date brethren by attaching small fish to their backs. This “gift” was only discovered when the rotting fish started to smell (the recipient all the while looking like a fool wandering about with a stinking, dripping fish attached to his person). Eventually, real fish were replaced by fake ones and somewhere along the line the fake fish became pranks and practical jokes. Presumably, some wise instructor came up with the paper fish idea to keep the crying in her class to a minimum. And that brings me back to chocolate fish. In the interest of world peace and brotherly love, I’d like to replace the paper fish with chocolate fish. Who’s in?
*According to my friend Natalia, the more daring wee ones will be chanting, “Attrapez le poisson d’avril, comme on attrape les imbéciles!”