The Unusual Chocolate Animal Used To Celebrate The Start Of April

When it comes to devouring sugary foods shaped like adorable animals, is there any time better than Easter? Anyone with a serious sweet tooth this time of year knows getting your hands on a chocolate bunny or a marshmallow chick only requires a quick trip to the nearest grocery store. The whimsical treats are stocked on store shelves along with all the other Easter goodies ready to be placed in pastel grass-filled baskets to be distributed on Easter Sunday.

But, what about the April holiday that kicks off the month? Here in the States, we celebrate April Fools' Day by trying to pull one over on our friends and family, but in some countries, the revelries go a little further. According to History, April Fools' Day may have its roots in France, from when the country switched from a Julian calendar that began on April 1 to the Gregorian calendar starting on January 1. 

Anyone slow to adapt to the change was a target for a paper-fish-on-the-back prank along with the unfortunate nickname of "poisson d'avril" or "April fish."  The meaning is simple, a young or gullible fish easily caught by a hook. This fishy practical joke — still reenacted today — is precisely why some countries celebrate the beginning of April with a sweeter version of April fish.

Chocolate fish are used to celebrate April Fools Day

In celebration of April Fools and poisson d'avril, France marks the occasion with the arrival of fish-shaped confections across the country. Author Patricia Sands paints a vivid description on her website of this time of year. "Boulangeries and patisseries deliciously get into the spirit with fish-shaped goodies," she writes, adding, "Oh ... and did I mention the chocolatiers? Schools of fish of all sizes fill shop windows." She explains that those who catch a big chocolate fish in early April are in for their own surprise — the large chocolate fish are often filled with small treats!

Though poisson d'avril may have started in France, it isn't the only place you can bite into a chocolatey minnow or two. According to Insiders Italy, some pastry shops in Italy still bait chocolate-lovers with the fish wrapped in foil for their own version of the holiday, "Pesce D'Aprile." Although, in modern-day Italy, these treats may be a bit harder to come by.

Here in the states, Oregon has joined in on the chocolate-fish fun. PDX Pipeline reports that Portland's Pix-O-Matic, a dessert vending machine, offers pairs of chocolate fish in little tins. Of course, if you happen to be gifted some sweets on April Fools Day, we'd still suggest taking that first bite with a bit of caution!