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The Joke’s On You: Holy Innocents’ Day (April Fool’s Day) in Tenerife

Are you thinking of playing some practical jokes on your friends this April Fool’s Day? If you put food colouring in the milk or superglue coins to the sidewalk in Tenerife, you’ll likely be met with a few blank stares.

There is an equivalent to April Fool’s Day in Tenerife, but it’s held on December 28th. Called El Día de los Santos Inocentes, or Holy Innocents’ Day, it traces its roots from the church. This is rather different from the April holiday, which is thought to stem from the 1500s when France changed its calendar to begin the New Year in January rather than in April (like the Gregorian calendar).

The Spanish tradition recognises the Massacre of the Holy Innocents by King Herod, the Judean king who ordered the deaths of all boys under the age of two in Bethlehem when he heard that a new King of Israel had been born. But the “joke” was on Herod as Jesus was in Egypt when the massacre took place.

Much like the tradition in Britain and elsewhere, in Tenerife people play inocentadas or practical jokes on their friends, and the joker says “Inocente, inocente!” to honour the saints. A famous example is the 200-year-old Els Enfarinats festival, which takes place in Alicante, where pranksters dress up in full military dress and have an egg-and-flour fight.

Some people consider the day to be unlucky and ensure they don’t make plans or start new projects on the 28th December. In the past, it was a custom to refrain from work on Innocents’ Day, but these days it’s less important than the Christmas Day tradition of visiting Mount Teide, which is a natural icon not just of Tenerife but of all the Canary Islands.

Instead of playing tricks at the beginning of spring, Tenerifinos celebrate Palm Sunday by taking to the streets carrying palm fronds and then hosting Easter parades.

Semana Santa or Easter Week is a wonderful time to visit the island when there’s plenty of celebration. Processions made up of penitents wearing long gowns and hoods take part in a pious brotherhood parade, street theatre retells the events of the Easter story and the silent ceremony, Iglesia de la Concepción, is a moving religious tribute.