A battle during the 'Festa dels Enfarinats' in Ibi, Alicante. / efe

28 December - Spain's Day of the Holy Innocents: what is it and why is it celebrated?

Many towns and regions have their own traditional way of celebrating the 'día de los Santos Inocentes'


The origin of Holy Innocents day in Spain, a day of pranks and jokes, has somewhat dark roots.

The date 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 origin 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.

Practical jokes and fun

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

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.

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

Crazy 'laws'

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.