Fish and fools

There are three main theories about the origin of April Fool's day, the first of April, and in our troubled times there may be some comfort in the thought that the tradition is almost international. Some theorists claim that it first originated in Persia (the Sizdah Bedar tradition) which could be the most ancient tradition related to practical jokes in the world today, for it dates back as early as 536 BC.

Another theory is that it originates from the time of Noah. It was alleged that he foolishly sent off his doves too soon instead of waiting for the water to give way sufficiently to land. One hestitates to suggest where, but this was said to have taken place on the first of the Hebrew month corresponding with April.

The third legend dates from 1564 when King Charles IX of France was supposed to have changed the national calendar to start on the 1st of January instead of the 1st of April (l'Edit de Roussillon). Those who continued to celebrate the 1st of April as New Years day, or refused to adapt to the change were treated as fools. Paper fish would be stuck to their backs before they were scaled, gutted and decapitated, as 'les poissons d'Avril' (April fish) victims, the French equivalent of April fools.

But why fish? Maybe there's a vague connection with the first, Christian symbol and secret code of 'Ichthus,' (ancient Greek- fish). Or could it have something to do with the sidereal, zodiac sign of Pisces, (Latin- fish) the first of April falling more or less half way through this particular astrological period?

Naturally the world isn't devoid of fish, or fools ('gowks' or cuckoos as the Scottish call them) in any month of the year. This has to include Persia of course. And there are all sorts of fish, schools of which are sometimes 'harangued' or tyrannised by groupers and radical sharks that seem to claim the monopoly of Cod, and without which (certainly for all species of Ichthus) the world would be a safer plaice.

There's no trout that a very close acquaintance of mine was an April fool's victim. Baited, hooked and gaffed on that same, fateful day. But as he keeps persuading himself that there's no such thing as haddock, that there's a bass for everything whatever one's halibut, and that carpe diem is always best for the sole, and other such pleasant philoshifical tunas, he is never overly turbot and always manages to remain reasonably salmon despite his rare herring problem.

(Years later he was offered an excellent bouillabaisse lunch at Cassis, near Marseilles. It was unforgettably good, in complete contrast to much of the above codswallop).

 Top April fool's day hoaxes of all time
Source- Wikipedia with thanks. Text and images © Mirino (PW) April, 2010

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