Today… Pesce D’aprile!
Il pesce d’aprile, April Fools’ Day, is celebrated on April 1st and it is a day during which Italians and French have the custom of playing practical jokes on friends and relatives, following the ancient traditions of tricks played in far-off times.
This custom is supposed to have its origins in the 16th century, but it only really became popular in Italy around 1860-1880, especially in Genoa – which inaugurated this tradition – and was particularly practiced among the upper classes of society.
The explanation of the name pesce d’aprile, literally April’s fish, is often linked in Italy to the zodiac and in particular to the fact that every event that happened on that date was related to the abandoning of the Pisces constellation by the Sun.
Or maybe it’s more simple… “Pesce d’aprile” (April fish) stems from the fact that an increase of young fish is noted at this time of year and the young fish are easily “hooked”!
An ancient joke in Italy is that of the announcement made by Buoncompagno from Florence in the XIII century when he promised to fly over the town of Bologna with a machine he invented on April 1st. The whole population gathered to see the flight, which actually never took place as it was a trick.
As the name hints, the most common prank involved in Pesce d’Aprile is to affix a paper drawing or cutout of a fish onto the back of an unsuspecting victim. Then, everyone else asks if anyone has seen “April’s fish” – when, of course, the victim doesn’t know he or she is the one they’re talking about. Although this may be a bit old-fashioned today, taping a fish onto someone’s back is still something Italian children do.