For those natural born pranksters out there, maybe one day of trickery just isn’t enough. As luck would have it, the Spanish speaking world offers an incredible alternative. If you felt like April Fool’s Day just wasn’t festive enough, then you will love Día de los Santos Inocentes (or ‘Day of the Holy Innocents). Check it out!
When is it?
What is it?
In Spain, and indeed across many primarily Roman Catholic countries, the 28th of December is a day of pranks and practical jokes. However, where April Fool’s is a relatively low key event with somewhat murky origins, Dia de los Santos Inocentes is a national celebration rooted in specific religious history.
As the story goes, thousands of years ago King Herod ordered every young child to be killed around the time of the birth of Jesus. As these young children were too young to have committed any sin, they came to be known as Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents).
While the foundation of the celebration stems specifically from religious teachings, the religious aspect of the holiday isn’t so much at the forefront of the festivities anymore. Now it is a day of celebration, trickery, and feasting.
How should I celebrate?
Now that the holiday is about festivity and humor, the pranks are the most important. A traditional prank is to pin a paper puppet or ragdoll (monigotes) on to an unassuming person’s back, or putting salt in the sugar bowl. These little practical jokes are called Inocentadas.
But it wouldn’t be a Spanish celebration without amazing food bringing people together. After a long day of (benevolent!) pranking, it’s important to mark the day with friends, family, and food.
Where should I celebrate?
For a lot of places in Spain, the celebration is small and personal. However, there are many famous celebrations across the country that are much bigger in size and fascinating to check out.
Els Enfarinats, Ibi in Alicante:
In this 200-year old tradition, a group of men named 'Els Enfarinats' (the Floured Ones) stage a revolution against the authorities. Another group of men, 'La Oposicio' (the Opposition), try to restore order. Els Enfarinats spend the day dressed up in pretend military uniforms, imposing ridiculous laws, and making satirical speeches against local politicians and businessmen.
Some of the aforementioned laws order local people to perform civic duties such as cleaning the town, and anyone who refuses, or is seen to have broken a law, is fined. If that sounds a little brutal to you, don’t worry -- it’s all in good fun, and the money received goes to charity at the end of the day. The whole festival includes a huge fight with eggs, flour, and firecrackers where over 1500 eggs and hundreds of kilograms of flour are thrown.
Fiesta de Verdiales, Málaga
At midday on mountain road between Málaga and Antequera, thousands of people gather on La Venta de Tunel to witness 25 groups of musicians compete to see who manages to play both the loudest and the longest.
The 25 groups (or ‘Pandas’ as they are known…) come together from local villages to compete in one of three categories on stage. Each group, comprised of roughly 20 people, perform 3 routines. At the end of the performance, the judges vote by holding up cards.
It will be celebrating its 56th year this year, and though it is not for first time travellers, if you manage to successfully find the competition, you will witness something truly special and truly authentic.
Devil’s Day, Setiles
In a small town in Castilla La Mancha, a local festival is held to celebrate Día de los Santos Inocentes -- a man dressed as the devil wanders around town followed by a legion of young children attempting to pull his tail. It is the job of local young men to knock on doors asking for citizens to contribute food for the village feast, and it is the job of the devil to help convince any reluctant people.
The feast used to be solely for young men who came of age that year, but now it is a feast for all of the young children. The day also includes mass, an auction, and a dance. Check it out -- if you dare!
If you’re looking to experience Spanish festivities like no other, then it really is worth checking out one of these infamous celebrations this year. Some aren’t easy to find as there aren’t concessions made for tourists, but it’s worth it for the food fights, festivities, and feasts.
Oh, and if you happen to be in Spain on the 28th of December, just make sure to be wary of the sugar bowl…