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28 December 1981: The Day of the Holy Innocents was reinstated

A battle during the 'Festa dels Enfarinats' in Ibi, Alicante.
A battle during the 'Festa dels Enfarinats' in Ibi, Alicante. / EFE
  • Ibi, in Alicante, celebrated its Santos Inocentes festivities once again in 1981 after a 42-year hiatus, caused by the Civil War and the difficult years that were to follow

After being halted for several decades due to the Civil War and the turbulent times that followed, on 28 December 1981 the Day of the Holy Innocents or 'El día de los Santos Inocentes' was celebrated once again in the Alicante town of Ibi.

The day's origins carry a somewhat dark humour. The Day of the Holy Innocents marks the day when, according to the Bible, King Herod ordered all baby boys under the age of two in Bethlehem, to be killed. He was afraid that the baby Jesus would become a powerful enemy.

Jesus, however, had been taken away to Egypt by Mary and Joseph. The 'joke', therefore, was on Herod and this is thought to be the origins of the tradition of playing pranks on family and friends.

According to religious beliefs, the babies murdered by Herod went to heaven as the first Christian martyrs.

Much like April Fools, celebrated in the UK and United States, the Day of the Holy Innocents is a day of practical jokes and fun, with the prankster yelling out '¡Inocente, inocente!' when they reveal the joke.

The celebrations in Ibi in Alicante, reinstated in 1981, take the shape of the 'Festa dels Enfarinats', where a 'battle' takes places, using eggs, flour, other foods and firecrackers as ammunition.

The festivities traditionally begin around eight in the morning when locals, in mock military uniform, stage a fake coup and take control of the town, enacting all sorts of crazy 'laws'. Those who break the pretend rules are fined, with the money raised going to charity.

Eventually, a battle begins between the 'rulers' and the 'opposition'. Festive dancing marks the end of the celebration.

Many different towns and areas in Spain have their own traditional way of celebrating this day. One of the most widespread pranks is to stick a figure, cut out of paper, on someone's back without them realising.

Examples of more specific celebrations include Los Locos, or lunatics, in Valencia, where the mayor of the lunatics governs the town for 24 hours, and the Baile de Los Locos in Cordoba.