April Fool’s … or Fish?

The arrival of spring welcomes in colorful flowers, warmer weather, longer days, and an overall sense of life and joy. Hearing birds chirping and children playing outside erases the solemnity of winter and ushers in a cheerful, playful mood. So it’s not surprising that the first of April, better known as April Fool’s Day, is traditionally a light-hearted day full of practical jokes and pranks. And while it is known by a different name in Italy, Italians also love celebrating with a bit of innocent mischief – all in the name of good fun. We at thatsArte love any excuse for celebration and joy, so without giving away too many details, let’s just say that we always have a little something up our sleeve every year on April 1st. (Sign up for our newsletter to be in on the surprise!)

Sicilian hand-painted bowl with fish by Ceramiche Sofia, Caltagirone

The day of the fool

Just like many modern holidays, the precise origins of April Fool’s Day are unknown. The name itself, at least in English-speaking countries, is pretty self-explanatory as to the day’s objective: play tricks and jokes on a gullible person, or “fool.” It can be as innocent as telling a friend that their shoelace is untied, or much more elaborate, like when the media get involved and tell false stories, for example in 2004 when TG2 in Italy announced the discovery of petroleum on Mars.

Arguably one of the funniest hoaxes in media history had to do with an Italian staple: spaghetti. In 1957 the BBC presented a 3-minute broadcast of a family harvesting the popular pasta from their spaghetti tree in the Italian canton of Switzerland, and scores of viewers fell hook, line, and sinker, calling the station for advice on how to grow their very own spaghetti tree.

April … fish?

Then where exactly do fish come into the picture?
Italians also play pranks on the first of April, but the day doesn’t belong to fools. Rather, it is referred to as pesce d’aprile (literally meaning the fish of April). It might have something to do with the origins of the day, but this “April fish” is mainly seen in the most harmless, yet entertaining prank of all, adored by Italian children and adults alike.

A simple paper fish is lightly taped to the back of an unsuspecting victim, much like the infamous “kick me” sign on George McFly in Back to the Future but undoubtedly more innocuous. That person walks around, gathering giggles unless someone takes pity and asks:
L’hai visto?” (Have you seen him?)
Chi?” (Who?) replies the victim.
Il pesce d’aprile!” (The April Fish!)
At this point, the target of the prank realizes what’s happened and starts wiggling around trying to get the fish from his back. It’s all quite harmless and in good fun.

Cat Fish Moon, a ceramic work of art by Riccardo Biavati - La Bottega delle Stelle, Italy

A good laugh

More than anything, it is a pretty valid example of the light-hearted nature of Italians in general. Letting the obvious stereotypes come into play, Italians typically enjoy a good laugh, ranging from a simple barzelletta to a Checco Zalone parody or a more sophisticated comedy with Roberto Benigni.

Why not take a cue from the Italians and play the perfect trick this year with your own paper fish and a bit of tape? Spread some smiles and cheer…after all, laughter is the best medicine. And in the hopes of not sounding too cliché, surprise is the spice of life. At least, we think so! If you want to be in on the fun for April 1st, make sure to sign-up for our newsletter. We have a special surprise in store for subscribers.

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