Laughing Dead

by Pablo Alvarez

The Day of the Holy Innocents is the version of April’s fool in Latin America. But despite some similarities, such as being the favorite day of pranksters, and being a tradition that we inherit from European countries, its origins are very different. Although April’s fool has been celebrated for centuries by different cultures, its roots remain a mystery. Some historians speculate that the beginning of this celebration dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as requested by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to hear the news and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1 instead of January 1, became the butt of jokes.

On the other hand, the Day of the Holy Innocents, which is observed annually on December 28, has a more tragic origin. The day commemorates the execution of innocent male infants in Bethlehem, as recounted in Matthew 2:16. The king of Judea, Herod the Great, upon learning of the birth of the King of the Jews, a threat to his rule and the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy, ordered the execution of all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem. While scholars debate the exact date and even discuss whether the massacre occurred, the holiday has been celebrated since before the late 5th century. Regarding the custom of making jokes, apparently it comes from a pagan festival of medieval times that was celebrated on the same day, the festival of fools. When both celebrations coincide, the theory is that the Church decided to unite them to calm the crazy things that were being done that day. The result was to joke around the day commemorating a child massacre, which just seems like a practical joke.

My name is Pablo Álvarez and I have the privilege of joining the family of writers for the CNY Latino newspaper in January 2021. My column will try to reflect the same degree of diversity as my academic formation, which is why I decided to call it “Salpicon of ideas”. I will address current issues with a varied approach, that I hope is also of interest to our community. Although it sounds a bit strange, I’m proposing a more or less open relationship. Let’s just say that I don’t promise to be exclusive in my content, since I also write fiction. However, I faithfully commit to you that I will give my best in these monthly meetings. I hope you do the same. Read as much as you can, since knowledge does not take up space, but try to return every month to this corner of the CNY Latino newspaper to continue cultivating this friendship.

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