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Apr 1

April Fools Day - Paper Fish

In France, an April Fool's joke is known as Poisson d'Avril - April Fish. Why else would we show you a picture of a fish rather than a house for sale in France!

Many a 1st April has been spent with me walking round completely oblivious to the fact I have a paper fish on my back, read on to learn why.

In all regions of France there will be a lot more Fish available and being bought for celebratory lunches, a bit like Pancake Day BUT with Fish!

April Fools day in France

Photo by OrigamiNate on Flickr.

Humour can be a bit hard to understand in another language, whether it’s a "knock knock" joke, or an inside joke that you’re not in on. Heureusement (fortunately), April Fool’s Day exists in France. That said, it has a different set of traditions and a very different name: April Fish or in French, Poisson d’arvil.

The holiday is celebrated with des plaisanteires et des canulars (jokes and pranks), but also by trying to accrocher un poisson de papier dans le dos de tes amis (stick paper fish on your friends’ backs)!

The name poisson d’avril comes from an old tradition dating back to 1564. La légende veut que (Legend has it that) the year used to start on April 1st, but was changed to January 1st by Charles IX. The old new year’s tradition involved a gift exchange, mais (but) some people n’étaient pas au courant du changement (were not aware of the change) and continued to exchange gifts on April 1st after le changement. Other people then used the occasion de se moquer d’eux (to make fun of them)!

But why fish? The old new year était pendant (was during) the end of le Carême (Lent). Christians would be fasting, but they could still eat fish. The joke of giving un faux poisson (a fake fish) began as une blague (a joke) on the old tradition of giving real fish as gifts. Donc le nom (Thus the name), poisson d’avril.

The tradition continues today and kids all over France will try to sneak up and accrocher un poisson papier dans le dos de ses amis. When the friend le découvre (finds out), the surprise is met with shouts of Poisson d’arvil! much the same way un gag similaire (a similar gag) would be met with April Fool’s! in the English speaking world.

Voici une liste de vocabulaire pour le poisson d’arvil:

Une plaisanterie – A joke

Une blague – A joke, a trick

Un canular – A prank

Un gag – A joke, a gag

Un poisson papier – A paper Fish

Poisson d’avril! – April Fools!

Accrother un poisson de papier dans le dos de quelqu’un – Stick a paper fish on someone’s back

Start your pranking out right and accrochez un poisson de papier dans le dos de quelqu’un!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Apr 1

In France, an April Fool's joke is known as Poisson d'Avril

In France, an April Fool's joke is known as Poisson d'Avril - April Fish. That's why the people in the postcard below are holding a fish!

In all regions of France there will be a lot more Fish available and being bought for celebratory lunches, a bit like Pancake Day BUT with Fish!

The first year my son played an April Fools joke on me I was confused as to why he kept shouting "Poisson d'Avril, Poisson d'Avril, Poisson d'Avril", the calming influence of my wife explaining why he was repeatedly shouting this phrase thankfully avoided me having him see a costly psychiatrist and as it turns out, he is fine. 

This postcard was originally sent in 1908 and the words on the bottom translate as:

'When you receive our nice fish, you'll know we're always thinking of you.'

To be honest if you opened the door at these two characters were standing there you would have a right to be scared! but they are no doubt charming friendly neighbours as is the norm in France.

The 'rules' of April Fool's and Poisson d'Avril are more or less the same thing, other than the French have a Fascination for Fish! The tradition in France is that along with practical jokes and bogus news stories, putting paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting victims is thought as hilarious, those crazy French japes eh! 

Here's a little April 1st film trivia for you: What gritty and stylish 1970's police movie takes place in Marseille where the opening scene is on April 1st?

See Below for the answer.

April Fools Day in France

Pictured above: David & Sharon earlier today!

ANSWER IS: the French Connection II. In the opening scenes of the movie, Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle (played by Gene Hackman) meets Henri Barthélémy (played by Bernard Fresson), in front of the gendarmarie in Marseille. Barthélémy is looking for drugs, where else but in a fish of course, based on a tip. He doesn't find any, as it's a Poisson d'Avril it is a joke played on the police, get it?

Anybody played any good "Poisson d'Avril" jokes or had one played on them?

Blog submitted by: David at The French Property Network - Cle France.

Thanks for the website 'Americans in France' for the original French Postcard image.

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Mar 5

Mardi Gras celebrations in France and yummy recipe for Crepes.

Shrove Tuesday on March 5th 2019 means that across the UK there will be people practising their pancake tossing !

But let us learn a little of how it is celebrated in France.

Origins of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is a well-known event in New Orleans and in Brazil, but why is Mardi Gras celebrated in France?

Mardi Gras has a few different roots, some in Christian culture, and some in pagan culture. These days, Mardi Gras is seen as a Catholic tradition, but what people actually do on this day is quite different to what people do on other Catholic holidays. Like Christmas and Easter, Mardi Gras includes a very large meal and a gathering of friends and family, but neither Christmas nor Easter includes masks, costumes and unlimited dancing and fooling around. For this reason, Mardi Gras can be interpreted as a mix of Catholic and pagan traditions: the holiday is Catholic, and the means of celebrating it stem from local traditions.

As we know the period of Lent is the period leading up to Easter. Since the period of Lent requires Catholics to fast, or to give up certain foods if not fasting, as well as make general resolutions for oneself that require self-discipline, Mardi Gras is said to have been created for one last day of unlimited fun and eating before giving up so much during Lent. Originally, a fattened calf was slaughtered as a Mardi Gras feast; in some cultures, pancakes became a traditional Mardi Gras meal because the milk and butter had to be used up before Lent began, or thrown away.

The name Mardi Gras literally translates to Tuesday Fat (or in English: Fat Tuesday). The name comes from fattening the calf and feasting on it; Tuesday is always the day that precedes the beginning of Lent (which starts on Ash Wednesday).

While the origins of Mardi Gras in France are religious and spiritual, Mardi Gras is mainly celebrated today simply because it is fun. While many Catholics still actively observe Lent and the traditions of not indulging excessively, Mardi Gras is celebrated not only by those Catholics who are going into a period of limited indulgence, but also by the general public.

The biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in France are in Nice and in Paris. However, there are celebrations big and small all over North West France in cities, towns and villages.

So whether you observe it as a religious occasion or an excuse for a party the one thing in common is the delightful taste, when cooked correctly, of the humble Pancake or Crêpe.

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Recipe & instructions for the perfect French crêpe.

A delicious French crêpe is versatile and not only for one day a year, as we all know there is always a crêpe van at a French market and whatever your choice of topping it is a treat worth signing up for.

But a well cooked crêpe at home can add a sophisticated touch to any dinner or desert course. It may look simple, but aspiring cooks are often disappointed that their results don't turn out like the thin, delicate ones found from the van at the market or indulged in at a fancy restaurant. However, don't despair – we have the recipe and method for you to impress even the harshest of critics.

As with many things it is the technique involved that makes the difference !

So how to make the perfect French Crêpe? This crêpe recipe makes a double batch because the perfect number of eggs per batch is 1.5 and leftovers are always nice!

Instructions

Things You will Need:

  • a non-stick crêpe pan or skillet, preferably thick bottomed.
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tsp sugar (if you want a sweet, dessert style French crêpe)
  • 3 eggs
  • butter wrapper
  • large spoon or ladle
  • plate
  • thin spatula
  • eager children, hungry neighbours or friends and family

First beat the three eggs in a small bowl. Then, whisk together the flour, milk, and eggs in a large bowl until you have no lumps. Microwave the butter in a small cup or bowl for about 20 seconds. Add a few spoonfuls of the batter to the melted butter and mix well. Then whisk the mixture into the batter. Tilt the batter against the side of the bowl to make sure all lumps are gone.

The most important step to making a French crêpe is greasing the crêpe pan. Too much butter will cause burning and not enough will cause sticking. Warm the pan slightly on the stove. Using a tiny piece of butter, grease the crêpe pan with the butter wrapper. Push down very hard so that the pan slowly absorbs the butter.

Then, heat the crêpe pan to medium heat. You might need to adjust this down slightly as you cook each French crêpe.

Once the crêpe pan is heated, hold it in your left hand (if you are left handed hold it in your right hand) off the heat. Use a large spoon or laddle to scoop out a few tablespoons of batter and pour it into the middle of the pan. Quickly, but steadily, tilt the pan to swirl the batter and coat the pan as thinly as possible and form the French crêpe.

When the edge starts to firm (don't let it get brown yet), loosen it by sliding a thin spatula underneath and around the edges. Then, here comes the fun part, flip the French crêpe over (check the ceiling height first!). Cook the other side for about 30 seconds and then lift the crêpe pan and flip the crêpe over onto the plate.

Hold the crêpe pan in your left hand (if you're right handed) off the heat for about 20-30 seconds before pouring the next one. This lets the pan cool down enough so that the batter cooks less quickly when it first hits the pan and can spread more thinly.

Bask in the glory of being the best Crêpe maker in the house and try to have some left to enjoy your own perfect French crêpe!

Blog submitted by: David at Cle France.

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Jan 2

New Year's Traditions in France

French Culture – New Year’s Traditions

On this deuxième jour de janvier (second day of January), I’d like to start off by wishing everyone une très bonne année! (a very Happy New Year!) New Year’s provides the French with not one, but two more chances to do what they do best . . . celebrate!

Like most festive French holidays, New Year’s (both le Réveillon et le jour de l’An / New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) feature great food and, of course, Champagne!* Many French New Year’s feasts also feature a (or many!) big platter(s) of freshly shucked huîtres (oysters). Shipped fresh from the ports of la Bretagne (Brittany), les huîtres are a favourite of the French for the holidays

Les mois sans ‘r’

While oysters are now consumed year-round, historically eating oysters (and other seafood) in the warmer months could be dangerous for those living far from the shore (no refrigeration meant that delicate seafood could easily spoil in transport). Oysters also reproduce when the water around them gets warm (generally in mid-spring and summer months of mai, juin, juillet, et août / May, June, July, and August) and some find that oysters are not as good at this this time. These two facts resulted in a common French tradition of avoiding oysters in les mois sans ‘r’/months without an ‘r’!

New Years Eve

Le saviez-vous? / Did you know?

Le jour de l’An (New Years Day) was not always January 1st. For centuries, the start of the year varied from country to country and even sometimes by region. In parts of France the new year once started on April 1 (and some say that the tradition of le poisson d’avril dates from this period). It wasn’t until the late 16th century, when Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian calendar we know today, that January 1 was officially established as the start of the new year (at least throughout the Christian world).

* While most wine-producing countries have some form of vin mousseux/sparkling wine (Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain; even France has vin mousseux produced in regions outside Champagne ), Champagne is only Champagne if it is produced in the French region of the same name.

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

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Jan 1

Bonne année! Happy New Year!

French Question: Why is it “Le Novel An” and not “Le Nouveau An”?

We wish all of our readers a happy and healthy 2019.

Talking about the new year in French can be especially difficult. This is because there are two words that mean “year”–an (m) and année (f), and because both of these words start with a vowel, which can change the word that comes before it.

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What’s the difference between an and année?  Besides the fact that an is masculine and année is feminine, an describes a particular moment during the year while année describes a span of time (this is similar to the pairs soir and soirée).

Thus, you would say: C’est le jour du nouvel an (It’s New Year’s Day) using an instead of année because you are referencing a particular moment of time during the year (New Year’s Day).

If, however, you would like to wish someone a happy new year, this is over a span of time, which lasts for the entire year. That’s why you use année in the expression “Happy New Year” or bonne année.

But there’s another trick when referencing the new year, or le nouvel an, in French. Because an is masculine, the adjective typically used with it should be nouveau. However, in French, an adjective cannot end with a vowel if the following noun also begins with a vowel (for reason of pronunciation or liaison).

Thus, there is always a masculine form of a word that can be used only in front of masculine nouns that start with vowels. In this case, that would be nouvel. Nouvel is pronounced just like the feminine form nouvelle, so don’t get confused if you hear someone say le nouvel an–this doesn’t mean that an is feminine. (You can also think about the difference between the demonstrative adjectives ce (masculine), cette (feminine), and cet (masculine before a masculine noun that begins with a vowel).

Alors, je vous souhaite tous une bonne année et j’espère que vous avez passé un bon nouvel an avec votre famille!

Bonne année! Happy New Year!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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