Equivalent of April Fools' Celebrated in December

Fiesta of Los Enharinados in Ibi, Spain.
Participants are covered with flour at the fiesta of Los Enharinados in Ibi, Spain. Fotógrafo Ibi/Creative Commons ASA 4.0 International.

If you should be in a Spanish-speaking country some April 1 and play a joke on your friends and follow that up with a shout of "¡Tontos de abril!" chances are you'll get nothing but blank stares as a reaction. The minor holiday of April Fools' Day, perennially popular in the United States, is little known in Spain and Spanish-speaking Latin America, but there is a rough equivalent, el Día de los Santos Inocentes (Day of the Holy Innocents), observed on Dec.

28.

The day is observed throughout the Spanish-speaking world in much the same way as April Fools' Day. But when the prankster is ready to reveal the joke, the saying is "¡Inocente, inocente!" or "Innocent one, innocent one!" (See the lesson on making nouns out of adjectives for the grammar behind this.) It is also common on that day for newspapers and TV stations to print or broadcast "news" stories based in humor rather than fact.

In its origins, the day is a sort of gallows humor. The Day of the Innocents observes the day when, according to the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible, King Herod ordered the baby boys under 2 years old in Bethlehem to be killed because he was afraid that the baby Jesus born there would become a rival. As it turned out, though, the baby Jesus had been taken away to Egypt by Mary and Joseph. So the "joke" was on Herod, and thus followed the tradition of tricking friends on that day.

(This is a sad story, but according to tradition the babies murdered in Jesus' stead went to heaven as the first Christian martyrs.)

Celebrating With a Food Fight

One of world's more unusual celebrations of any kind is used to mark Dec. 28 in Ibi, Alicante, Spain, not far from the middle of the Spanish Mediterranean Coast.

In a tradition more than 200 years old, townspeople engage in a massive food fight of sorts — but it's all in good fun and is used to raise money for charity.

After a several decades in which the festivities were suspended for the Spanish Civil War and subsequent national events, they were revived in 1981 and have become a tourist draw and major event since then. The festivities are known as Els Enfarinats in Valencian, the local language closely tied to Catalan. In Spanish, it's known as the fiesta of Los Enharinados, loosely translated as "The Flour-Covered Ones." (Enharinar is the verb for coating something with flour, known as harina.)

The festivities traditionally begin around 8 a.m. when participants in mock military attire stage a fake coup and take "control" of the town and enact all sorts of crazy "ordinances" in program called New Justice — Justícia Nova in Catalan and Justicia Nueva in Spanish. Those who brake the pretend ordinances are fined, with the money going to worthy causes.

Eventually, a massive fight ensues between the "rulers" and the "opposition," a battle fought with flour, vegetables and other harmless projectiles. Festive dancing marks the end of the "battle."