The merry April pranksters
This week on The Sound Kitchen, you’ll hear the answer to the quiz about what the French call the first of April – and there’s a special guest to explain how the French celebrate. There’s some great music for you - and of course, the quiz. Just click on the arrow in the photo and enjoy!
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This week’s quiz:On 25 February, I asked you a question about April Fool’s Day. You were to write in and tell me what the French call today, 1 April.
The answer is: “Poisson d’Avril”, or “April Fish”. Or “Fish of April”, if you prefer to be literal … at any rate, it’s weird, isn’t it? “April Fish”. Why?
No one is really sure, but the most accepted explanation is this: Before 1564 in France the beginning of the new year was 25 March. People gave each other presents to celebrate, between 25 March and 1 April. Usually this present was fish, because usually the New Year period fell during Lent, when Roman Catholics do not eat meat.
In 1564, France’s king Charles IX issued the Edict of Rousillion, which changed the date for the beginning of the new year from 25 March to where it is now, 1 January.
Not everyone knew about it this change of date for the beginning of the new year – there was no Radio France International in the 16th century. So to tease those who were still following the old dates and offering fish around 1 April, those who had accepted 1 January would play tricks on them. And what were those tricks? You guessed it – gifts of fish, but old rotten stinky fish, which they would attempt to hang from their victim’s back, without him knowing about it (lovely, no?).
And there you have it. The birth of the famous April Fish Day, a day for fools, a day for those who do not accept reality, or choose to see reality otherwise.
It seems the French are not alone in their April Fish Frenzy – the Italians, the Belgians, the Dutch as well as people in the French-speaking areas of Switzerland and Canada celebrate Poisson d’Avril too.
So now you know all about the Fish of April. Don’t you feel better?
By the way, this new calendar with 1 January as the beginning of the new year is called the Gregorian calendar, after Pope Gregory XIII, who imposed it on all Christian countries in 1582. The previous calendar was called the Julian calendar, after the Roman emperor Julius Caesar, which had been in use since 45 BCE.
The winners are: Joseph Jack from Jinja, Uganda; Ms Guomei Zhu from Anhui, China; Benson Mutoko from Nairobi, Kenya, and RFI Listeners Club members Itumeleng Mokhele from Roma, Lesotho, and Behzad Payandeh from Tehran, Iran.
This week’s question ... you'll have to listen to the show to participate. You have until 1 May to enter this week's quiz. The winners will be announced on the 6 May program. When you enter, be sure you send your postal address in with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.
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