Friday, March 30, 2018

On ne se fait pas marchand de poissons la veille de Pâques

Poisson d'avril !

Everyone knows April fool’s day. You faites des farces to your friends, family, and colleagues with something ingenious and funny. Even the media nowadays participates. They create fake histoires trying to find a perfect balance between something incredible but plausible, scary but funny…It’s the day everyone’s trying to be funnier than the others. In some countries though, especially French-speaking ones, it’s also something more. In France we call it: “Le poisson d’avril”.

Poisson d'avril sur Éloïse !
For weeks and weeks, you’ve been waiting for this day to arrive. As a kid in l’école primaire in France, this day is one of the funniest of the year! This is the day you finally get to hang fish on the back of your schoolmates! At this point you could be wondering, “what’s funny in doing this?” I can assure you that when you are an 8 year-old kid and you have the power of hanging fish on everyone/everything it is grave cool! Fish on your friends, fish on the chairs, fish on the walls, and even fish on the maîtresse if you dare! 
As tradition dictates, all pupils draw and then cut their own paper fish during a good portion of the morning. Then, as if no one knew what was going on, you would see all the pupils kindly hugging each other, giving friendly back taps to each other as if it was the day of recognizing everyone’s cool attitude – “Salut mon ami *tape dans le dos* comment tu vas aujourd’hui ?”. Only the wisest will use the smoothest approaches to stick their fish, using tape as gently as possible, maybe using a moment of confusion or a first fake heavy tap to confuse and then a smooth one. A real ballet of tricksters!
The origins of the poisson d’avril are unclear. Traces of these kinds of celebrations have been found during the antiquity in Europe. It used to be called La fête des fous. The “Holi” Indian celebration, also known as the Festival of colors, has the same origins. An early theory on the apparition of the fish is tied to Easter. Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the 21st of March (yes, it is complicated), which means that the date often falls in the end of March and beginning of April. Some years, like this year, it falls on the very first of April. The lent preceding Easter was stark, but opposing to meat, fish was during this period one of the only authorized mets for people. Others say that it could come from a combination of the “ichthys”, the fish symbol that is a representations of Jesus, and an alteration of the word “Passion” to the word “Poisson”. The passion of Jesus becomes then le poisson de Jesus, so le poisson of Easter is the April Fools fish.
Goofy as I was at this age, I can assure you I used to love it! But for me, April first was also a special day because it was l’anniversaire de mon grand-père. I see you already asking yourself, “and so, was he funny?” I’m gonna tell you. He was the goofiest person you could think of! For me, it was évident that the only reason April Fool’s Day was on the first of April was because HE was born on this very day.
April Fool’s Day in France is a difficult day to know who your real amis are. You may receive dozens of hugs but remember, check for fish on your back, otherwise it will be an invitation to all kinds of bamboozling!

Poisson d’avril – April’s fish
faites des farces – To prank
histoires – Stories or History depending on the context
l’école primaire – Elementary school
grave cool – slang. Awesome
maîtresse – Mistress
Salut mon ami *tape dans le dos* comment tu vas aujourd’hui ? – Hey buddy *back tap* How are you today ?
La fête des fous – The mad feast
Mets – Dish
l’anniversaire de mon grand-père – My grandfather’s birthday
évident – obvious
amis – friends

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