The jokes are the protagonists throughout the day of the December 28th, date on which the Day of the Holy Innocents. But where does this custom come from? Why a day that recalls the death of children have you become the chosen one to joke? Is it a decision with macabre overtones?
Sometimes you may have asked yourself some of these questions or it is possible that you have not stopped to think about the reason why every December 28 you should be aware so that you do not get a joke (funny or heavy). The point is that both in Spain and in the rest of Latin American countries The Holy Innocents are synonymous with laughter and fun… and even taking what surrounds us a bit as a joke.
What is commemorated on the Day of the Holy Innocents?
As we have pointed out, in the Christian saints we find that this day is dedicated to the children who died by order of King Herod I the Great. As tradition explains, the news reached this monarch that the messiah was going to be born in Judea. In fact, on their way to worship the newborn, the Magi made a stop at court to ask the king about such a great event, which had made them travel hundreds of kilometers from the lands of the East.
Worried about losing some of his power to that boy who was called to be the king of the Jews, the ambitious Herod asked them to show him the place where Mary had given birth to the offspring. However, the wizards realized his greed and refused. So, neither short nor lazy, the monarch ordered all the children to be killed under two years that was in Bethlehem. That way he would make sure to finish off the one who came to reign. It is known to all that Herod did not achieve his mission, although, yes, he took the lives of many little innocents who had nothing to do with the aforementioned Messiah.
Did it happen on December 28?
If we stop at the dates, there are the same doubts that such a massacre occurred on December 28, as that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth was on the 25th and the adoration of the Magi on January 6. All of them were taking place centuries after the real events happened. What’s more, the Gospel of St. Matthew even points out that the Magi visited Herod two days after his visit to Bethlehem.
Similarly, there is no evidence that Herod ordered the murder of all those under 2 years of age in Bethlehem, although it would not be surprising given the information that has come from this monarch to this day. In addition, it must be borne in mind that Bethlehem was a small place, where it would not be difficult to find all the little ones, as there would be no more than two dozen.
But what about the jokes?
As is evident, the celebration of the Holy Innocents does not have anything of a joker, with what its origin we must look for it in other pagan origin traditions which we will try to summarize below.
In Roman times, between December 17 and 23 the Saturnalia, a festival in honor of Saturn in which houses were decorated, candles were lit and gifts were made to friends and family. In addition, during the revelry, the masters freed their slaves and even exchanged their roles for a few days.
Likewise, on December 25, the Romans celebrated the feast of the Birth of the Undefeated Sun, so it is not surprising that in the year 221 it was decided that the birth of Christ was on that same date. After all, all our traditions come from others and so on.
Well, it is not unreasonable to think that Saturnalia would lead to the medieval Feast of the Fools. In other places they also called her the Obispillo Festival, which consisted of putting a child in the role of bishop, which is related to the custom that on that day the roles were changed and, so to speak, everything was worth.
When both celebrations coincide, the Holy Innocents and this pagan festival, the theory is that the Church decided to join both to calm the crazy things that were done in the second one. And in this way, the custom of making jokes joined (the most popular in Spain and Latin America is that of the paper doll stuck on the back) with the day that was dedicated to the children who died by order of the reviled Herod.
Finally, it should be noted that the day dedicated to jokes in the Anglo-Saxon world is not December 28, but the April 4, moment in which the April Fools’ Day.