It’s days like today that make me truly the believe that the world is shrinking and being in your “own” culture means a conglomeration of other people’s cultures. Today is April Fool’s Day in English-speaking countries and Poisson d’Avril in Francophone countries. Poisson d’avril, which literally means “April Fish” in French, is celebrated mostly by schoolchildren who slap paper fish on the backs of their teachers and peers until the whole classroom looks something like an aquarium.

Poisson d'avril of the Chocolate variety. Mmmm!

In 1562, Pope Gregory changed the Christian calendar’s year to begin on January 1st instead of April 1st when the new year had previously been observed. The people who didn’t believe that the change had actually happened were mocked and called “April fools.”

This year, another big event fell on an already fun-filled day. Every year, the Universite de Caen Basse-Normandie hosts what I have termed as “complete and utter chaos.” Carnaval des étudiants (the student carnival) is when the Minnesota State Fair meets Halloween, UND’s Springfest, Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade… and then there is a nuclear explosion and that’s what Carnaval is like. Everybody on campus dresses up in the most unbelievable costumes and parades around, getting drunker and drunker with every passing hour. Classes are disregarded by almost everyone. There is a delightfully rowdy parade in which students dance on floats to American hip-hop and the people who live in Centre Ville look on with amusement from their apartment windows above and take pictures.

Centre Ville (Downtown) with the students on parade!

Charlotte and me, wearing a toga. No, I was not intoxicated!

Crazy students sitting outside Chateau Ducal in the Sunshine

There are boatloads of confetti thrown in every direction and smashed bottles litter any hard surface of the ground. Pirates, fairies, devils, Marios, Luigis, Musketeers, trannies, togas, Johnny Depps, various awkward body parts and priests/nuns/cardinals are present. A brass band wildly blasts tunes, competing with the techno concert only a few meters away. Fireworks shoot off randomly at Château Ducal, startling people awake from their mid-afternoon snooze and eliciting screams from the girls. Just today, I 1) got a spell cast at me by “Draco Malfoy,” 2) told I was “mmmtreees eeeelegant” (French and drunk: “very elegant”) 3) got confetti stuck in my hair, 4) got stared down by a mime and 5) had my self-esteem challenged by a tranny with better calves than me.

Confetti! and sans toga...

What a crazy day! In the next few days, I will be experiencing more wonderful French culture, and although significantly less insane than today, it will be really fun. Stay tuned!

To learn about the Carnaval and see pictures of the disguised students, click here!