Spain – the holiday destination of many, the epitome of sun, sand and blue sea.  Fiestas and festivals are part of it’s very skin…and there are some strange ones out there. Some unseasonal ones too! Arrive in the Alpujarras in August and you can enjoy New Year, in Berchules. And in December you might find yourself the butt of a few jokes…Why?  Time to celebrate Día de Los Inocentes, the Day of the Innocents, or if you like, April Fools Day in December!

If you find yourself in Spain celebrating the festive season, watch out for Día de Los Inocentes, don’t get caught out!

Nativity parade in Spain

When is it?

Between Christmas and New Year, Día de los Inocentes takes place on December 28th – so put it in your diary,  you have been warned!

What are the origins of it?

As with most Spanish festivals and fiestas, Dia de Los Inocentes has religious connotations…

The origins are back to King Herod, and his slaughter of baby boys under the age of two around the time of the birth of Jesus. The sacrificed children were of course the Innocents, too young to have committed any real sin and the December festival is in  honour of them. Today though, the day has taken on a more Pagan meaning, a bit like Hallowe’en in October.

What happens?

It’s the kids you’ll need to watch out for!  They’ll come banging bottles and making noise from house to house, demanding ‘payment’ in the form of sweet treats, have some Christmas dentist defying Polvorones and Mantecados handy by the front door then!

A little like trick or treat, keep them happy and they won’t trick or fool you, and will go on their merry way…a trick is called an ‘inocentada’ or a ‘broma’.

One lump or two?

If you’re dipping into the sugar bowl for some sweet sustenance for your café con leche, then it’s wise to check it first.  A popular trick on December 28th is to swap the sugar for salt….!

Read all about it

Newspapers and the media will also get in on the act.  Rule of thumb – don’t believe all you read is true on Día de los Inocentes!  Spoof stories and tall tales abound! Watch your back too – you might find if you turn and look in the mirror that a paper doll is attached to your clothes – known as Monigotes -  or a ḱick me’ sign…!

Best places to go for the day

There are a couple of Spanish destinations, where you might enjoy the Festival more than others.  For instance try these out…

A view of Valencia

Valencia

If you want to experience some more trickery, then take yourself to Valencia, the home of Paella and Oranges. Head for the delightfully named Ibi. A good tip is to bring some old clothes!  A Flour Battle is the occasion, and it all gets a little crazy…lots of flour thrown at each other, with a background of loud noise via the fireworks and revelry.

Blue collar workers dress up in all manner of fancy dress and take over the local Government jobs – locals clean the streets, and direct traffic, if the person chosen to carry out the job refuses, they receive an on the spot fine!  All in a very good cause of course, the money goes to charity.

Sticking with Valencia, hop over to Jalance and take part in a  crazy dance around the streets, known as part of the Fiesta de los Locos, well, it is!

For some Valencia places to stay, maybe shower off all that flour, click here…

View of Malaga from the Parador

Málaga – a festive break?

Málaga

You won’t have to travel too far after you touch down in Málaga. Another great Spanish destination and another location for Día de los Inocentes.

It’s a little more musical here in Málaga, with the Fiesta de los Verdiales – but it does get really loud!

Verdiales is a type of Flamenco, and the different competing groups are known as Pandas. Verdiales is one of the earliest known types of Fandango, and the songs are happy and loud! The dancers will wear traditional costumes made of heavy black wool, and decorated with embroidered flowers, mirrors and lots of colour.  Head dresses are worn too, similarly decorated and covered in carnations and mirrors.  Lots of clicking castanets, and simple, happy verses are sung.

Between Málaga and Antequera, the crowds gather at La Venta de Tunel to watch no less than 20 different groups perform…together. Whoever plays the longest and the loudest wins the competition and is crowned champion for another year.  Loudest and longest, eh? Welcome to Spain!  So, a good tip,  earplugs might be some sensible holiday packing!

It’s a great festival to experience, more traditional than overtly touristic and a real explosion of colour and noise for the senses, a celebration of Spanish musical tradition, like Trovo in the Alpujarras.

For a place to stay, to rest your ears maybe, here are some holiday home rentals in Málaga and the surrounding area.

Toledo standing tall….

Castilla La Mancha

A bit darker…Devils Day takes place in Castilla La Mancha on December 28th.  Setiles is the destination, and the kids will love this one. A chap dressed as the Devil himself prances around the streets, horns and all, with the kids following him. As soon as he turns around, they have to scarper but not before they have tried to pull his tail!  He will knock on all the doors asking for not your soul – but local charcuterie in the form of Morcilla, Chorizo, Salchichon, Jamón.

Why? Afterwards, all the local kids are invited to share in with the meaty feast, and a large riotous party ensues -   more noise, more fireworks!

For a couple of Devilishly good holiday homes in nearby Toledo, click here...and you won’t even have to sell your soul to pay for them!

Do you fancy playing a trick on a loved one? Then make it a treat instead and take them to Spain for some sunshine, festivities and fun around the end of December…a break between Christmas and New Year with a distinct difference!

Carol Byrne
Posted by Carol Byrne
Originally from Dublin, Carol has also lived in London and Wales before settling in Spain with her husband and family in 2006. She and her family run a rural retreat high in the Alpujarras mountains of Granada, which you can find here as property number 17043. She blogs about traditional village life, sparked by a passion for the culture and history of Spain, and teaches English locally..