Un Minuto con…

Pesce d’Aprile  ~  April Fool’s day

By Rosario Mariani, http://www.europebychoice.com

As a young boy in a small town in Italy, April 1st was the day to pull pranks on everybody.  We drew an image of a fish on a piece of paper with the phrase “Pesce d’Aprile” and we taped it to parked cars or inside the teacher’s cupboard; we would send a younger child to deliver the message to an adult, or we would pin the paper on the back of somebody’s coat and many other silly ways in order to get a big laugh.  No one explained why we did it, but we liked to do it over and over again.

Pesce d'Aprile

Well, now we know that we can blame it all on Pope Gregory XIII.

By the year 1582, the Julian calendar, which was used by the Western World, was not in sync with the seasons, and desperately needed some tweaking to realign the Earth with the Heavens.

Faced with this dilemma, Pope Gregory XIII introduced some changes and renamed it the Gregorian calendar.  The changes included:

  • 11 days removed from the calendar so that the day after October 4, 1582, became October 15, 1582.
  • February now had 28 days instead of 30 and every 4 years an extra day was added to make it a leap year.
  • Other months of the year consisted of either 30 or 31 days.
  • New Year’s Day was subsequently celebrated on January 1st, and no longer on March 25th, with festivities lasting through April the 1st.

Legend has it that some people were not at all happy with this change, and continued to celebrate the New Year in their own way around April 1st. The people who embraced the new calendar started to mock the reluctant ones and gave them false presents and played tricks on them.

During that time, April 1st coincided with the end of Lent, when the Church forbade Christians to eat meat. Fish was tolerated and was often used in the offering of gifts for the New Year.

When the jokes started to become more common, fake fish were often used to trick the victim. There lies the legendary origin of “April Fish,” (Pesce d’Aprile) stuck on the back of the fools, those who did not accept the changing times or who saw the world through their own eyes only.

And don’t forget! Pranks are only allowed up to mid-afternoon.


Rosario Mariani is the owner/CEO of Europe By Choice, which promotes travel to Italy and other select European countries. He has more than 40 years of experience in the travel industry, previously serving as Director of Italy Product for Italiatour and Club ABC Tours, and also in other positions with EuroFly, Alitalia and Air France.

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