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December 28th - 'Dia de los Inocentes'

By The Equalizer - Sun 26th Dec 2010

Perhaps one of the lesser know fiesta days or traditions of a Spanish Christmas is the 'dia de los Inocentes' - Innocents day.

Despite it's religious origins, December the 28th is essentially known today for being the Spanish equivalent of April fool's day, when many family members and friends may play tricks on one another.

'El Dia de los Inocentes' takes its name from an event from a well-known event that is described in the Bible. According to the Gospel of St Matthew, King Herod of Judea acted upon a prophesy he was given by a 'Magi' - or wise man, as of gold, frankincense and myrrh fame. The prophesy stated that a baby had recently been born who would grow up to challenge his rule as an adult, and as such he set about putting to death any baby boy under 2 years of age. The ploy backfired as Joseph and Mary escaped to nearby Egypt, taking the infant Jesus out of harm’s way. The 'joke' therefore being on King Herod.

Many ancient literary sources put the number of innocents slaughtered at as many as 144'000, however, bizarrely the Catholic Churches own 'Catholic Encyclopaedia' states that the exact number could not have been more than a couple of dozen at most, based on the known population of Bethlehem at the time.

In today's Spain, December 28 is a day for practical jokes known as 'inocentadas 'and their victims are called 'inocentes'. Sometimes the jokers themselves are called the "inocentes" and the victims of the prank are not supposed to be angry at them, since they could not have committed any sin. Up until recent fairly recently, some Catholic countries used to have a tradition of role reversal between children and their teachers, clergy etc... but this custom seems to have fallen by the wayside over the years.

whatever your religion or beliefs, if you live in Spain you had better be on your guard for practical jokes. And if you do fall victim to a prank, try and take it all in good humour!

Comment on this Blog

Pauline : I would celebrate as per the original day, however I think putting a 2 year old child to death may be a little excessive in this day and age. Just saying...
Robster - Sun, 28th Dec 2014
I am always interested to read the origins of traditions and customs such as this, but how come the modern day version of the celebration bears little ressemblance to the event it is supposed to commemorate ?
Pauline Nichols - Thu, 27th Dec 2012

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