April Fool’s Day vs Día de los Santos Inocentes

Today is April Fool’s Day in the UK, a tradition celebrated in many Western countries like France (Poisson d’avril) by carrying out pranks or practical jokes. In Spain and Latin America, the same custom is celebrated on 28th December, Día de los Santos Inocentes (Holy Innocents’ Day). The true origin of these celebrations is unknown.

Although Holy Innocents’ Day was originally a commemoration of King’s Herod’s slaughter of infants, during the Middle Ages, the celebration became an important part of the «Feast of Fools», which, in turn, recalled the Roman festivity of Saturnalia. During these mid-December festivities, slaves became masters, men dressed as women and churches were used for merry-making. Part of these celebrations included the election of a «boy bishop» whose authority would last from, 6th December, the feast of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, until Holy Innocents’ Day.

Even though, April Fool’s Day has been celebrated for centuries in different European countries, its origin is unknown. The most popular theory is that the New Year was traditionally celebrated at the beginning of spring, on March 25th. When France adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, the celebration of New Year’s Day was changed to January 1st. However, many people questioned this change or were simply unaware of it and continued to celebrate the New Year in spring. They were soon to be called «fools» and become the object of ridicule.