It’s the prankster’s favorite day. According to tradition, the day of April 1st is the perfect occasion to prank those around you. Kids use strategy to craft and tape a paper fish to your back, without getting caught. Adults, not having lost their inner child, have fun playing pranks on their co-worker or friends.

For the best (and especially for fun), April Fools comes in all its forms and the French have a blast with it. Some media and politicians do not hesitate to set traps for the public (with varying degrees of success). But, do you really know the meaning of this unusual custom?

In Le fin mot de l’histoire, published on March 1, 2023 by Éditions Flammarion, author Nathalie Gendrot and humorist Guillaume Meurice return to the origin of 201 expressions through their book. Among them, April Fool’s Day is referred to as “a joke or a prank that is made on the day of April first”. For example: “make believe that the salmon in plastic comes from an “eco-responsible” fishery”, jokes the duo of experts.

To understand the meaning of April Fools, we need to go back in time. The best-known expression of April Fool’s Day (in the form of a prank) is said to have originated in the 17th century, although the origin of the custom is rather unclear. According to our two authors, the fish has a symbolic place in mythology and religion.

“In Roman antiquity, during the second half of March, the Hilaria (from hilaris, “gaité”) celebrations are celebrated, during which we allow ourselves the most free words and jokes”, we learn in the book. according to Nathalie Gendrot and Guillaume Meurice. The word is free and we do not deprive ourselves to make humor. On the religion side, “the time of the resurrection of nature (in spring, editor’s note) will soon be that of the resurrection of Christ, on Easter day. During Lent which precedes this great Christian celebration, we generally eat fish, symbolic animal of Jesus Christ”.

More surprisingly, April Fool’s Day would also have a light connotation, especially at the time of love. It is at the end of the Middle Ages that this expression is to be taken in the figurative sense in a bawdy form. “We find that it is especially the time of illegitimate love, since it is to a naughty wench that we send an April Fool’s joke or rather “a young matchmaker” carries a love letter to the lover of his master”, indicate the writer and humorist of France Inter.

Another plausible origin of April Fool’s Day: According to the calendar. In the past, the New Year was celebrated at the end of March, especially in the 7th century. “Instead of exchanging New Year’s gifts, we would have started making pranks”. After many changes under several kings, Charles IX will reassign the date of January 1 to the New Year in 1564. And, like every year, young and old pranksters have not lost their sense of humor to amuse the gallery!