Día de los Santos Inocentes, or ‘Holy Innocents Day’, is a celebration of religious origin, marked on 28th December each year, that is popular in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Now, however, the occasion has become very similar to the event we know as ‘April Fools’ on 1st April.
It is thought that the origin of Dia de los Santos Inocentes comes from the Bible – specifically Matthew 2:16-18 – which details King Herod ordering all baby boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas to be killed as he feared the power of Jesus. However, angels warned Mary and Joseph, who fled to Egypt to protect Jesus. In this somewhat morbid story, King Herod was ‘fooled’ by Jesus and the children whose death were ordered became Los Santos Inocentes (the Holy Innocents).
In the past, Día de los Santos Inocentes was celebrated mostly by children, who would go from house to house asking for sweets, making noise with spoons and bottles and singing traditional Christmas songs. Now, this tradition has become more similar to the English-speaking ‘April Fool’s Day’ but with a particular focus on food. Children play small pranks on each other (inocentadas), adding salt to sweets or sticking signs on people’s backs.
Some towns and cities have parades or carnivals with masks and colourful clothing, or host markets selling joke items such as fake noses and wigs, and delicious foods. Even the media have been known to participate in the festivities by reporting on fake news stories.
But beware – some bakers may use salt instead of sugar to trick you!