December 28th is a religious holiday in Spanish-speaking countries. During this day they play practical jokes similar to those on April Fool’s Day on 1st April. It originates from the killing of innocent children by King Herod around the time of the birth of Jesus, hence the name “Santos Inocentes”, (Holy Innocents) as they were too young and innocent to have done anything wrong. Although it stems from a religious festival on the Catholic calendar, nowadays the religious meaning has almost been forgotten and it is more widely known as a day of pranks and practical jokes.
As the long school holidays drag on between Christmas and the 6th January (King’s Day) this provides welcome entertainment for children who are getting bored.
The little practical jokes are known as “Inocentadas” and may involve silly things like putting salt in the sugar bowl, sticking paper cut-outs (monigotes) on people’s backs etc. As well as children playing practical jokes on friends and relatives, the media; newspapers and radio stations also take part by reporting on false pieces of news to confuse people.
It is a day of great feasting and celebration and as always, different parts of Spain celebrate it differently. The most famous festivities include:
• Fiesta de Verdiales, Málaga: Beginning at midday at a mountain road inn between Málaga and Antequera, thousands of people gather on La Venta de Tunel to watch musicians in 20 groups compete to see who can play the longest and loudest.
• The Flour Battle with fireworks in the streets of Ibi, Valencia. Factory workers in fancy dress take over the local government jobs and get local people to carry out civic duties such as cleaning the streets. Anyone who refuses, receives a fine and this money goes to charity.
• Fiesta de los Locos, “Crazy People’s Dance” involving acts of defiance and revelry in Jalance, Valencia.
• The Devil’s Day. In Setiles, a small town in Castilla La Mancha, they hold a festival involving a mass, a dance, an auction and a man dressed up as the devil who is followed around all day by children who try to pull his tail. Young local men go knocking on doors asking for food to create a feast. The “devil” is supposed to help the youngsters convince any reluctant people to offer food such as chorizo, morcilla (black sausage), jamón serrano (cured ham) and bread. Years ago the feast only included the local men who came of age that year, however nowadays, all of the children are invited to share the feast.