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April Fool’s Day in Italy. Pesce d’aprile

April Fool’s Day is “celebrated” in Italy, as in many countries all around the world. Like many fellow Europeans, Italians call it “April’s Fish”—that is, Pesce d’aprile.


Why April 1, and why the fish?

Why is it the first day of April? Since when? But most importantly: What does it have to do with fish? As always in these cases, tracing the birthdate of such an informal tradition is not an easy task. And there are several variations of the story. Anyhow, let’s stick to the most accredited account: Before 1582—when the Gregorian calendar was introduced—New Year’s was celebrated between March 25 (at the time, spring equinox) and April 1. Many people struggled to get used to the new calendar and kept considering April 1 the beginning of the new year, thus earning the “fool” label. Some other people started to give them nonsense gifts to celebrate the “old New Year’s.” From there to the pranks, it was a short step.

The fish mystery is probably easiest to untangle. Fish are supposedly easily fooled (as they readily take the bait). And there is pesce d’aprile explained.* A very innocent prank—common among young kids at school—is, indeed, sticking a paper fish on someone’s back. Pranks can easily become very sophisticated; let’s see some famous Italian scherzo, burla, or, just for this day, pesce d’aprile.


*It must be said that the fish issue also has some more elaborate explanations. According to some, in Florence, people used to send the nitwits to buy fish in a specific piazza, where fish was only painted on walls. Some others claim that the Pope forbade people to eat fish on April 1.


Famous made-in-Italy pranks

The oldest pesce d’aprile on record dates back to the end of the thirteenth century, when a Buoncompagno from Florence (Wondering why Tuscany again? Tuscan people are known for their, at times pungent, wit.) swore he would fly over the city of Bologna with some special device he had invented on April 1. Many people believed him—the idea of flying must have been something at that time—and gathered on a hill outside the city. The man eventually showed up with some giant wings, but blamed the wind for not letting him complete his enterprise.


In more recent years, a couple of Italian scientists played a major role in one of the largest known worldwide pranks. On April 1 2015, CERN, the celebrated European Organization for Nuclear Research, pompously announced that they had acquired unequivocal evidence of the Force, as detailed by CERN researcher Ben Kenobi in his paper May the Force be with EU. CERN librarian Tullio Basaglia and CERN physicist Valerio Rossetti—both Italians, as you might have guessed—appeared on the CERN website, apparently using the Force to grab some books without touching them and reheating coffee with their hands.


The year before, another Italian, Fabiola Giannotti—no less than CERN’s current and first female Director-General—proudly announced that, from that point on, all CERN’s communication would switch to the Comic Sans font as a move to update the laboratory design for its sixtieth anniversary year.


If you’re not a top-notch, world-renowned scientist… do not dispair! You still have your creativity and imagination to help you come up with the funniest prank. Buon Pesce d’Aprile 2024!



By Claudia Quesito


Read also:
April Fool’s Language Learning: 4 Fun and Creative Ways to Tell Jokes and Play Educational Pranks


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