What do you do if you are an assignee in Paris, and your child comes home telling you about having a paper fish stuck to them at lunch? Or if you are new to the U.S., and suddenly see the news that you can legally print your own money?
If something seems strange, check the calendar! In many countries, April kicks off with a holiday that some love and some hate: April Fool’s Day. Whether it’s the Poisson d’Avril (April Fish) in French-speaking areas or Humorina in Odessa, Ukraine, the history of the holiday stretches back hundreds of years.
One potentially apocryphal origin says the first April fools were those in France who didn’t realize the calendar had changed from the Julian to Gregorian and tried to celebrate the new year on April 1, 1582. The “April fish” came to be when other townsfolk gave fake fish to those celebrating, teasing them as being young fish who were easily caught, and making a reference to the end of Lent. Even today, French and Québécois schoolchildren try to place paper fish on their classmates on the first day of April. The tradition then spread in various forms throughout Europe. One of the earliest forms of April prank in the UK was sending chain letters or sending friends on fake errands, known as “hunting the gowk.”
The Middle East may even have a claim to the April Fools tradition older than all the rest, with Persian records of springtime pranks dating back to 536 BC! Some historians believe this originated as a way for people to spend time outside, enjoying the high spirits that come with the start of spring.
Nowadays, even corporations get in on the pranking, from melty cheese company Velveeta announcing a skin care line to PayPal claiming that users will be able to print money from their accounts. When living in a new country, or even just taking a business trip in the springtime, stay alert for any potential mischief or fake headlines, as are popular in the USA and Brazil. Just make sure to wrap your jokes up by noon in Ireland and the UK- otherwise you become the fool! At Living Abroad, our country profiles contain lists of local holidays, so you can keep up with the calendar and on your toes.
Written by Kate Havas, Content Manager