What is Holy Innocents Day (El Dia de los Santos Inocente)?

Image: Fotógrafo Ibi CC via Wikimedia Commons

El Dia de los Santos Inocentes or Holy Innocents Day takes place in Spain on December 28. It commemorates the day when Herod, King of the Jews, ordered the slaughter of all children below two years old in Bethlehem. The Magi had announced to him previously that the successor to the throne would be born in Bethlehem, so in fear he might one day be overthrown, he ordered the killing to make sure his possible successor, Jesus, didn’t make it to the throne.

Luckily, an angel of the Lord had appeared to Joseph in a dream. He told Joseph he should flee to Egypt with the child and the mother, as Herod had ordered the killing of the babies. Herod had been tricked and Baby Jesus remained in Egypt until the King’s death.

In Spain, Holy Innocents Day is the equivalent of April’s Fools Day, so everyone tries to trick family and friends. If you are fooled by a prank then you will be called ‘inocente, inocente’ repeatedly, for the rest of the day. One of the most common and harmless pranks is to stick a paper man on the back of a friend. From here on tricks can escalate as far as they can be taken. It is usually a fun day where everybody excels at mischief with a good sense of humour.

It has become a tradition in Spain for every news desk to make up a story and present it on TV as if it were real. It is the only time of the year they are allowed to do this, and everyone looks forward to figuring out which one is the trick news item. Newspapers also dedicate a page to parody news stories.

There is usually a TV program where celebrities are subjected to well-organised pranks which are then broadcast with the final aim of making people laugh and raising funds for a few charitable organisations.

In Ibi, a town in the Alicante region, they have their own local tradition. They call it the Dia des Enfarinats or day of the flour coating. It is a fun representation of a dispute between the ruling political party and the opposition. The group of enfarinats is made up of the mayor, the judge, the district attorney, and the clerk of the court. On the opposition team, everyone wears a black top hat and will try to overthrow them from power. They fight by throwing flour and firecrackers at each other in a theatrical and satirical atmosphere.

In Fraga, in the Huesca province, Holy Innocents Day is celebrated by throwing eggs at each other. Whereas, in the town of Tremp, in Lérida province, they hang a big white paper man called Llufa from the church tower. People sign and dance along the streets until the paper man is brought down and finally burnt.

In Jalance, down in Valencia, December 28 is called the Dia de los Locos, or day of the crazy. It is a festivity that dates from the XVII century and is marked by pagan symbolism. The young ones dress up in extravagant clothing and eccentric make up to enjoy the various live bands.

On Holy Innocents Day, it is common to see sweets called Huesos de Santo, or Saint’s bones, in bakeries across the country. They are made of marzipan and covered in syrup. Sweet profiteroles are also available for this festivity although they are perhaps most traditional at Easter. In Catalonia, the Panellets are the Catalan version of profiteroles, and they are covered with pine nuts, almonds or grated coconut.

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Written by

Neil Morris


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