In Mexico and all over the Catholic world, December 28 commemorates the Santos Inocentes or Holy Innocents, considered the first Christian martyrs. Upon hearing of the birth of Jesus, King Herod ordered the death of every child in Bethlehem under the age of two in an effort to wipe out all competition to his throne. But an angel warned the Holy Family and they sought refuge in a foreign land to save the life of their baby, the Christ child.
In Mexico — as well as Spain and other Latin American countries — December 28 is the equivalent of April Fool’s Day. Although it may seem irreverent, jokes of all kinds are played on the innocents. Fortunately, the jokes are well taken.
Among the traditions, this poem is recited after someone has been fooled:
Que te dejaste engañar,
Sabiendo que en este día
Nada se debe prestar.
Innocent little dove,
You let yourself be fooled,
Knowing that on this day
Nothing should be lent.
People make the most outlandish statements. They tell others shocking news like they’re going to be parents, or they’re getting married to someone else’s sweetheart. In this electronic world, Facebook postings are a way of fooling friends at home and farther afield. For example, my brother posted that he’d won a scholarship and would be spending the next three years away at school. It wasn’t true, but all day long he received e-mails of congratulations and encouragement, much to his perverse delight.
The news media also play a part in this traditional day. Newspapers often have two front pages — one with real information and another with headlines that are hard to believe. These reports are always something unexpected such as surprise marriages between politicians and famous musicians, huge salary donations by politicians, silly archeological discoveries and other improbable news.
Television journalists also prepare astonishing and hard to believe headlines and, if you’re caught off guard, you can be fooled.
Fortunately for teachers, the holiday falls during Christmas vacations.
One of my favorite December 28 headlines said Kate Middleton was leaving Prince William for Mexican soccer star Chicharito!
It is on this day of Holy Innocents that people in Mexico get back in touch with the prank-playing child we all have inside.
Published or Updated on: December 28, 2011