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The Possible Origins of Pesce D'Aprile

Friday was April Fool’s Day. The tradition of practical joking and mischief-making may date back to Ancient Roman times, related to the end of Winter and the coming of Spring. Ancient Romans and Celts celebrated a festival of practical joking at about the time of the Vernal Equinox, as do millions of Hindus in India.

However records of some of the celebrations and traditions that we still associate with the first of April date from the end of 16th century, just a few years after the adoption of the new Gregorian calendar. As we discussed in our Instagram post, prior to the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar the New Year was celebrated on 25th March. This is still a celebrated event in Florence today.

One of the theories of the origin of April Fool’s Day is that those who did not accept the change were considered as "fools of April". Legend has it that many French, opposed to this change or simply inattentive, continued to exchange gifts between March and April, celebrating the New Year as in the old days. They were mocked and began to receive absurd or empty gifts during non-existent parties. In the empty gift a note could be found that read ”poisson d'avril”.

The tradition took off and then spread to England in the 18th century and to other European states. In Italy, the custom of April 1 is relatively recent: it dates back to the years between 1860 and 1880. The first city to welcome the French habit was Genoa, where the passion for April jokes landed in its lively port. The tradition took root amongst the middle-upper classes and then spread to the rest of the population.

In Italy, France, Belgium and French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada, the 1 April tradition is often known as "April fish" (poisson d'avril in French, april vis in Dutch or pesce d'aprile in Italian). Possible pranks include attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim's back without being noticed.

Why a fish? Of course this refers to fish that bite the hook and are easy to bait.

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