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April Fools, the French way

Published on 21/02/2024

In France, people say "april fish" when they play a prank and children traditionally stick a cut-out paper fish onto the backs of their victims. In fact, we love the fish image so much that we welcome it into our homes and wardrobes with open arms.

France’s April Fools’ tradition

The origin of the ‘poisson d’avril’ (April fish) is a subject of debate. Some argue that its origins lie in antiquity, as the 1st of April was the day of the god of mockery: Momus. Others assert that the tradition dates back to the sixteenth century, when the first day of the year (‘jour des étrennes’) was celebrated on the 1st of April in certain regions of France. In 1564, King Charles IX imposed the 1st of January as the common date, but some pranksters continued to offer humorous gifts to their family and friends. As for the fish, its use is thought to originate in the Middle Ages. During the fishing season, people would hang real fish on the backs of unwitting sailors to bring them luck on their fishing trips.

Fishy business

Fish & fish glassware

At Le Roux Intérieur, find a Serax "fish & fish" carafe in the shape of a fish (a pretty herring) to serve, for a change, water in the fish! €35

The responsible watch

Do you have “time management issues”? Put time on your side with the S1 Tentimes watch and its Squama® salmon-leather strap made in Lyon by the tannery Ictyos. €1049

Sea leather

There was a time when New Year’s gifts were given on the 1st of April in France (read on to find out why). For your next gift-shopping spree, try the Numéro K card holder, made with sea leather from the Lyon-based tannery Ictyos. €85

Zodiac pin badge

Proud Pisces will adore this mermaid-and-fish pin badge created by Claire from All The Ways To Say. They are available to buy at L’Effet Canopée 11€

The koinobori

Part of Japanese tradition, this windsock in the shape of a Koi carp is flown on Children’s Day, on the 5th of May, to bring good luck to little ones and youngsters. In the West, it is used as a lucky charm for births. You can find organic cotton Koinobori by Madame MO at Mogu. €36

20 Rue de la Charité, Lyon 2

Buried fishbones: Lyon’s ancient mystery

For decades now, a strange network of tunnels beneath the hill of Croix-Rousse has fascinated the residents of Lyon, scientists and curious people from around the world. Named the ‘arêtes de poisson’ (fishbones) by the city’s technical teams when they were discovered in 1959, it is thought that they date back to antiquity and were built with limestone from the north of Mâcon. A series of dead-end parallel passages branch off from a central passage (like a fish skeleton, hence the name), which runs for thirty or so metres in the direction of the River Rhône. A number of theories and legends have been developed over the years: a hiding place for the Templars’ treasures, a secret library, an esoteric procession path... Still today, many questions remain unanswered. Who built these mysterious tunnels? What were they used for? Closed to the public for safety reasons, this place has yet to reveal all its secrets.