Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fish Day

In France, April Fool's Day is not a day for creative trickery. As with many other aspects of French culture, there's a specific tradition, and they're sticking with it. In France, it is known as "Poisson d'Avril" or April's Fish, and the point is to tape a paper fish on an unwitting person's back. Basically, it's like a "Kick Me" sign, without the kicking. This means I have to turn my back on my girls for large portions of the morning and pretend not to notice when they give me long, pat-pat-pat hugs out of nowhere. I think in theory, once they get you, they're supposed to yell "Poisson d'Avril!" but of course this would take all the joy out of it as far as we're concerned. Let's just see how long somebody will go around with a paper fish on their back. Much more fun.

Because Anthony is off on a ski weekend, and our semi-planned playdate doesn't work out, the girls have to come with me to my dance class this afternoon. They have met some of my classmates, so they manage to hug some of them hello and rather successfully slip on some fish. A few people truly do not realize what's been done, much to the girls' delight. I may be walking around with a fish, and we may have needlessly used up a lot of scotch tape, but at least I know I won't have to worry about salt in my sugar bowl or cellophane over the toilet seat for a while.

As this April Fish Day happens to fall on Palm Sunday, we see a procession going down our street to one of the (many, many, many) local churches. The branches they are holding, along with the fact that Gigi tells me that she learned in religion class that today marks the day Jesus was crucified, makes me rethink the meaning of Palm Sunday, which I had always assumed was named after palm leaves. Perhaps instead it has to with the palms of his hands? But no, I look into it and it actually does refer to palm leaves -- the ones laid down as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, in what seems like quite a festive parade for somebody about to be executed. Apparently, in northern climes such as Paris, they give out different kinds of branches. And, also apparent, while Gigi does extremely well in most subjects, religion class is never going to be that little atheist's specialty.


While I'm discussing Catholic and French traditions in one fish-themed posting, I feel I must mention the French proclivity for pureeing fish inside mashed potatoes. I've served this at our apartment once, when I accidentally bought pur√©e de pommes de terres with Alaskan hake blended in. The girls, Anthony, and I all hated it (of course we did! It's fishy mashed potatoes!), but at least Anthony and I never have to eat it again, as long as we recognize the name for this dish (which dangerously escapes me right now) at the local brasseries. The girls, on the other hand, are subjected to this on a recurring basis at their Catholic school on that most dreaded of cantine days: Fish Friday. Guess the ultimate April Fish joke's on them.

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