Why do the French talk about fish on April Fools’ Day?

As in the UK, the 1st April in France is a day traditionally associated with playing pranks on people. One of the pranks French school children sometimes play is to sneakily attach a paper fish to an unsuspecting victim’s back and run away shouting ‘poisson d’avril!’ (‘April fish!’) when the victim realises they’ve been pranked.

But why fish? No one is exactly sure…Some theories say that it’s associated with the zodiac sign Pisces which begins around this time. Others say that it’s to do with the start of the fishing season. But most agree it’s probably something to do with the change in the calendar which was ordered in mid-16th Century which made 1st January the start of the new year as opposed to 1st April. Those who were slow to catch up were called ‘April fish’…

At the beginning of 20th Century it was customary to send postcards to mark the occasion. You’ll find some of our favourites below (weird but wonderful they may be!).

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