Innocents' Day

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(Holy) Innocents' Day, also known as Childermas, is a holiday to commemorate of the "Massacre of the Innocents" described in the bible in the Gospel of Matthew. Depending on church/denomination and region, Innocents' Day is celebrated on December 27, December 28, or December 29.

In some traditions, it once was custom on Innocents' Day to give the children an undeserved flogging in their beds, not as a punishment, but to impress on their minds the murder of the innocents.[1]

Various Catholic countries had a tradition (no longer widely observed) of role reversal between children and their adult educators, including boy bishops, perhaps a Christianized version of the Roman annual feast of the Saturnalia (when even slaves played "masters" for a day). "In Britain, schoolboys would bar the door and refuse the master entrance until ritual verses were exchanged and a holiday was granted. The usual pattern was for boys to gather weapons and provisions as Christmas drew near and then seize the school or, more often, a single classroom; if they could hold out for a set period, usually three days, they were allowed an extension of the usual Christmas holidays or a relaxation of the normal rate of flogging. If the master broke in they were generally beaten severely."[2]

In Germany, the tradition of Pfeffern is done on Innocents' Day.

In Spain, Hispanic America and the Philippines, December 28 is a day for pranks, equivalent to April Fool's Day in many countries. Pranks (bromas) are also known in Spain as inocentadas and their victims are called inocentes, or alternatively, the pranksters are the "inocentes" and the victims should not be angry at them, since they could not have committed any sin.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. H. Clay Trumbull: Hints on child-training (1891), page 54
  2. Gerry Bowler: The World Encyclopedia of Christmas
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