The morning was – and still is – gloriously alive with light and a pale spring sun that will become warm this afternoon. Naturally, everyone will take to the streets, the parks, any green spot available.
And This is a Workday
We’ve had this weather for days and last week I had American friends here to enjoy it. We strolled through the Luxembourg gardens together, marveling at its beauty and the way nearly every chair and bench was full. One of my friends looked around at all the people sitting, relaxing, smoking, reading, and said, shaking his head, “And this is a workday.”
Parisians Simply Enjoying Life
Right now, people are lined up to buy fish.
But not the scaly, wet kind. Instead, it’s the chocolate version that swims into focus at this time of year. Some are large and wrapped with colorful ribbons which, when untied cause the fish to open and spill forth…more fish. Other fish in white, milk, and dark chocolate are tiny and called “friture,” which refers to the tiny fried fish served at cafes and bistros in the spring. And then there are the foil-wrapped sardines in their flat boxes that resemble cans, down to the ring that you pull to open them.
The Fault of King Charles IX
Why fish? Well, it has to do with King Charles IX who, in the 17th century, changed the date of the new year from April 1 to January 1. Somehow, the word didn’t get out to everyone, and many people continued to exchange gifts on April 1. Those in the know considered these people fools…April fools.
But still, why fish? Because fishing season begins April 1 in France, so the two dates became inextricable and somehow the fish became a prankster’s tool. The prank became a paper fish stuck surreptitiously to an unsuspecting person’s back so that others could point and chuckle, whispering “poisson d’Avril” which means, basically, “Got you!”.
This still happens in France, though the perpetrators now are children who run up to an adult – any adult – stick a fish to their back then run away, screaming with laughter. I can’t count the number of times I played the unsuspecting adult as my kids stuck a fish to my back; of course I could hear them, of course I could feel their light thump as they pushed on the tape, of course I played dumb. After all, it’s that French thing about enjoying life, because as anyone who has lived in France for any length of time knows, the French enjoy beyond measure poking fun and chuckling, fish or no fish.
So if you’re in France now and you see someone walk down the street with a fish taped to their back, do them a favor because no one else will. Point and chuckle if you must then save them some shame and offer to unstick it. Consider it merciful diplomacy. And then go watch the video, like it, subscribe! You’ll be so glad you did because NO ONE can then ever say to you “Poisson d’Avril”!