What kind of fool believes in April Fish?
Well, the French do. And they may have been the originators of the April Fools jokes that are so common on April First.
It turns out that King Charles IX (yes, Fun Daddy, Charles VIII is dead.... Damn you, Monty Python and your Flying Circuses!) decided in 1564 to change the date of the new year from April 1 to January 1. The Catholic Church eventually changed the New Year's date officially in 1582 when it adopted the Gregorian calendar. Those people who didn't learn of or recognize the French government's change were the April Fools.
But the fish? Where did they come in?
Well no one really quite sure.
It is possible that the fish is a reference to leaving the zodiacal sign of Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20). Maybe because for most years, the time after April 1st was part of lent, a time of fasting, or eating fish instead of flesh or fowl. Either way, the French tradition included putting a dead fish on the back of the fool. Stinky? Oh, yes. And hopefully quickly discovered.
Today French children are more likely to use paper fish or stickers and eat fish shaped treats.