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Today is the 1st of April and just like in many countries around the world, it’s the day of jokes, hoaxes and pranks. Newspapers and other media publish fake stories but the real speciality in France is the poisson d’avril.  This consists of sticking a paper fish on someone’s back and seeing how long they go without realising it.

Once the fish is discovered you shout “poisson d’avril”! Children love trying to catch out their teachers if it falls on a school day or their parents when it’s a day at home.  

Accounts vary as to the origins of the jokes and the fish connection. The theory with the most credence is that it arose out of a change in the calendar in the 1560s when King Charles IX ruled that the year would, from then onwards, begin on the 1st of January not the end of March as had been the case. The traditional gift-giving period at the start of the new year therefore changed from the beginning of April to the beginning of January, but there were those who found it hard to adapt to the new system and they were mocked by being given fake or joke presents on the 1st of April.  These presents were usually food related and as the date nearly always fell during lent when meat was forbidden, they often consisted of fish or pretend fish.

Beware of the hoaxes in the media!

It has become a tradition in the French media to observe the 1st of April. Newspapers, magazines, radio, and the internet relay fake stories.

Today there was a good one announcing a new law that texting in foreign languages would only be allowed up to 12% of any message.  Any text that went over the quota would be blocked. With the Academie Française’s obsession with the purity of the French language and dislike of English words creeping into everyday usage such as “le week-end”, “le parking” and “email” it’s the sort of thing that could, just about, be believable and we were taken in for just a split second!

Here's another 10 that have been used over the last few years:

  1. A new French airline will allow passengers to travel from Paris to Marseille in a hot air balloon.

  2. The Mona Lisa reveals her true identity.  She is the long lost twin sister of King Louis XIV.

  3. A leading French perfumer releases a new fragrance: Eau de Fromage.

  4. The Palace of Versailles has announced that they will organise video game tournaments for visitors.

  5. Notre Dame Cathedral will be organising French cheese tastings shortly after the monument opens in 2024.

  6. The Eiffel Tower announces plans to build a mini version of itself in every French village.

  7. The French government has declared 1st of April to be National Croissant Day.

  8. On 1st of April all schools in France are cancelling classes for the day.


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