Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fish

April first wouldn't be the same without some French Poisson d'Avril cards.

There are lots more Poisson d'Avril cards on this blog, but I'll repeat some of the background in case you didn't see the earlier posts.
Back in the old days in France (up until 1564), the new year was celebrated on April first, based on the Julian calendar. That was before King Charles IX came along and decided that everybody should be following the Gregorian calendar, which starts the new year on the first day of January. Not everyone welcomed this change, or so the story goes, and some people continued to celebrate April 1 as the first day of the year. Allegedly, those people were mocked and referred to as April fools. Whatever the case, it became a tradition to do things such as pasting a fish on unsuspecting people's backs on April 1, and calling them a Poisson d'Avril or an April Fish. The symbol of the fish may also have been connected with Jesus Christ.


There is another theory that the traditions were inspired by the abundance of newly-hatched fish in French rivers in the Spring. These fish, who had not yet acquired their stream smarts, were easy to catch, and referred to as Poisson d'Avril. Because of the fish, it became customary to fool people on April first. It's still a tradition to give chocolate fish as a present and at one time it was also very popular to send, often anonymously, postcards featuring fish. Somewhere along the line, these cards also became romantic, with the fish symbolizing remembrance and secret feelings.

 


Be sure to stop by Sepia Saturday for interesting photos and stories.

27 comments:

  1. Great post and wonderful cards :)

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  2. I am so jealous of these cards........

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  3. Great postcards. I'd always wondered why they called it poisson d'avril, but i'm still not any wiser...

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  4. Wonderful cards. You had me looking in my archive for April 1st last year when I wrote a piece call 'Don't Laugh At Me...' about the stories behind the April Fool tradition including the French Poisson D'Avril. Should have resurrected it for the A-Z Challenge.

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  5. How interesting! I love the looks of these women - I want their dresses and accouterments!

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  6. I really enjoy the April Fish postcards. They must have been very popular.

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  7. It's SPAWNING TIME!!!

    Everybody do the Spawn. Shake your hips. Move a little to the left. Breath like a fish. Dodge the hook. Slide away.

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  8. I don't even know what to say about those cards. Pretty ladies posing with fish...Salvador Dali must have loved these cards!

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  9. I do love the poisson d'Avril cards, and their slightly surreal nature. These are a great selection, especially the rather arch look of the girl in the first one.

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  10. I hadn't come across Poisson d'Avril cards before either, but it's now a good excuse to be ferreting in those stacks of saucy French postcards, isn't it.

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  11. What an interesting post. Beautiful women with fish. I enjoyed some new information.
    QMM

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  12. I love all these April's fish postcards. The women and their clothing are beautiful.

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  13. I wonder how on earth anyone could think fish might be romantic. I can't think of anything I'd be less likely to do than cuddle a fish, or wear one in a sling around my neck.

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  14. Thanks for teaching me something new! Very amazing, and here I thought fishing, and fish was mostly a man thing!

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  15. And Joyeaux Avril to all Bloggers! Great set of postcards...

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  16. I remember being introduced to this somewhat bizarre habit of fish and 1st April by a post of yours either last year or maybe even the year before. And that simply reminds me how many fascinating aspects of vintage postcards I have been introduced to by your blog. A big thank you for that.

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  17. I have never heard of this! How very funny! The postcards are just wonderful...lovely ladies all in their gorgeous gowns and sporting smelly fish. ha. that last one is really, really funny!

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  18. How wild! This is the first time I've heard this explanation of the origins of April FOol's Day.

    Love your postcards.

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  19. I've never even wondered about where april fools day came from. Thanks for the explanation. But beautiful women with fish! Not a pretty sight.
    Great postcards nonetheless.
    Nancy
    Ladies of the grove

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  20. How interesting - I've never heard of April Fish before and have to confess that I wondered if you were winding us up! The young lady in the first pic is lovely, and her dress is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you :-) Jo

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  21. Well..how interesting and informative..thank you :) Great post!

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  22. A really interesting post, I'm in love with those postcards, that's some collection.

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  23. What fun! The French seem to preserve a lot of their collected calendar traditions in postcard images. St. Cecilia Day is another postcard genre in a similar style but with musical instruments.

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  24. We refer to the chocolate fish as "friture" (literally: small fry), which used to be sold in abundance by confectioners and pâtissiers, not just for April Fools Day, but also in the run-up to Easter (despite Lent...). Likewise bakers would sell fish-shaped sweetened puff pastries on April 1st, yet sadly the tradition is slowly but surely losing its impetus. Nowadays I would struggle to find a Poisson d'Avril card in the shops. Thankfully jokes and pranks are still the order of the day, for kids at least.

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  25. Nathalie,
    Thanks for the update on the status of April Fools Day. Perhaps it is up to those of us who like these cards to re-introduce them.
    I like the idea of chocolate fish though too.

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  26. I think I need to go fishing for some more French postcards:) GLAD you are back up and running!!!

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