Many area expats are still unaware that there is prank-filled holiday observance between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Being ignorant of the nuances of the Day of the Holy Innocents can leave the uninitiated in danger of making costly decisions and falling prey to fool’s shenanigans and tomfooleries.
The Day of the Innocents on Monday, December 28 originated with King Herod of biblical fame. He was so tormented by the news of the birth of a new king (Jesus) that he issued an edict that resulted in the killing of all infants and young children.
The playful, teasing traditions that have evolved on the Dia de los Inocentes are typical of the propensity of Mexicans to laugh in the face of tragedy and to challenge intimidating fears.
In modern times the day is filled with pranks, jokes and fantastic stories to convince the naïve to lend items that then never need be returned. The notes sent in Victorian times detailed great tragedies or problems that necessitated the request to borrow money, tools, or household items read much like those current-day emails that relate the falsified woes of friends stranded in Manila or Johannesburg with no money or ATM cards.
In some areas, a cutout figure of a person or a notice something like the old time, “Kick me,” are seen. In some homes fathers turn off the water while teen daughters are shampooing hair. There is no end to the variety of jokes has no end.
In the Victorian years, once the absent-minded friend naively the requested item, the prankster sent a gift of sweets or miniature toys in memory of the innocents lost to King Herod with a note saying, “Innocent little dove who allowed yourself to be deceived, knowing that on this day, nothing should be lent.”
Much of the tradition is reminiscent of April Fool’s Day. I’ve seen parts of newspapers (including the “Guadalajara Reporter” printed upside down, or with outlandish and fanciful headlines and stories. I’ve also been approached by friends, maids and gardeners, all wanting me to loan them some small item. My suspicions were aroused when I received the unusual request for a loan; the mischievous smiles and twinkling eyes completely blew their cover, and that gave me time to remember that on this day things lent need never be returned. Once I recovered I could return in kind the good natured ribbing.