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Friday, April 1, 2011

Poisson D'Avril -- April Fool's Fish?

Why are there always fish on these French "Avril" cards? In France, the victim of an April Fool's Day prank is called "poisson d'avril," or an April fish (which refers to a young fish easily caught!)

Why is April 1st a day for fools and foolishness? Nobody seems to know for sure. There are stories about the change of calendars in the 1500s, but they don't hold up well because April Fool's celebrations date before that time. Some people connect it to the unpredictability of weather and nature at this time of year.

We do know that for many centuries, in many cultures, this time of year has been associated with celebrations of frivolity, lightheartedness, and sometimes pranks. (The Romans had a festival called Hilaria around the end of March.) Maybe it's just that the coming of spring after the long months of winter brings out our pent-up energy and silliness, and we need a day to let it out!

One interesting note: April is named for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility. One of her symbols is a fish, a symbol of fertility. Think how sly Aphrodite uses desire and passion to "trick" creatures into love or at least lust and a lot of work and trouble! Nothing can make a fool out of you faster. In the myths she is one capricious and "tricky" goddess.

Anyway, have fun and be careful! You could become Poisson d'Avril if you don't watch out!

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