Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Day of the Innocent Saints

The Massacre of the Innocents by Rubens (1638)

El Día de Los Santos Inocentes, falls on the 28th December, which is the Spanish equivalent of April Fool's Day, when jokes abound and tricks will be played.

December 28 in the Catholic church commemorates the assassination of all the male babies - The Innocent Saints - on Herod's orders in a vain attempt to kill the child Jesus. Since the Middle Ages, the sacrilegious have remembered this mournful event with humour and, the tradition has continued. In olden days, bakers made salted tarts, people nailed coins to the floor, etc. The most usual was to cut out a paper effigy and stick it to the back of a passer-by, which they would wear without knowing and, many people will make jokes in bad taste.

At Ibi, near Benidorm on the Costa Blanca on the Spanish mainland, the tradition is for the workers from the local toy factory (in fancy dress) to take over the administration of justice in the streets from 9 a.m. to midday on this date. Any 'fines' they collect (extort) will go to charities and, they are not subtle. They have been known to handcuff the bank manager and have removed the wheels from a vehicle. Even the police won't stop them.

On TV and in the newspapers in Spain, bogus stories will appear (a UFO terrorizes the Royal Palace; the President runs off with the daughter of the opposition leader; a new planet has been discovered; all cars with registration ending in 7 must report to the police, Viking Ship Discovered at Las Teresitasetc., etc.), only some of which are later acknowledged to be "inocentadas" - hoaxes in the name of Los Santos Inocentes.

Image: José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, via Wikimedia Commons
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