April 1 and Day of the Holy Innocents

I’m happy to report that we have made it safely to Caracas! Tomorrow we’ll check out the botanical gardens, the Teleférico (aerial cable car) and the Museo Bolívar. We love Venezuelan food, we’ve tried it in Madison and we know this will be a tasty trip. It’s so amazing how we traveled the 2500 miles overnight. April Fools!

April Fools may originate in the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. Instead of an April start, the year commenced in January in the new calendar, fooling those who did not know of the change. They were the first April Fools. If we were in Caracas this morning, an April Fools joke would be out of place, because Venezuelans have their joke day on December 28th, El Día de los Santos Inocentes (Day of the Holy Innocents). On that date every year a sad history is recounted and transformed. After Jesus was born, Herod had the male children under 2 killed, afraid of the special newborn’s potential power. From a viewpoint of somber humor, Herod was tricked, the joke was on him, because Jesus escaped to Egypt. This does not translate easily into US culture. The resulting silliness does, however.

Paper Person Cut Out. Photo: Rebecca Cuningham

In España, December 28th is celebrated with jokes like pinning a cut-out paper person on someone’s back that says, “Inocente” (innocent). To point out the joke, someone will call, “Inocente, Inocente!” That’s not the only way to celebrate. In the town of Ibi, Spaniards are famous for their flour battle in front of the church that day! They call it the fiesta de los enharinados, party of the flour-covered people. Then, go home, shake out your clothes, and bake a cake, say I. ; )

In Venezuela, many places celebrate 28 December with role reversals. In Mérida, Trujillo y Portuguesa there are Fiestas de los Locos y Locainas (Parties of the Lunatics) where women dress up as men and men as women. They wear masks or paint their faces to hide their identities. Other cities, like Las Zaragozas have a colorful masked parade with local music.

Día de los Santos Inocentes, Las Zaragozas, Venezuela Photo: Rodolfo Pimentel

In México, people play jokes on one another, switching sugar for salt, or sticking a note on someone’s back. When the joke is discovered they say, “Inocente palomita” (Innocent Dove) or “¡Feliz día de los inocentes!” (Happy Day of the Innocents!) People who lend things on this day are in danger of not having them returned, in Mexican tradition. For example, “May I borrow your car?” “Yes.” Ha ha. “¡Inocente palomita! Thanks for the new set of wheels!” The full saying is, “Inocente palomita que te dejaste engañar sabiendo que este día nada se puede prestar.” (Innocent dove that you allowed yourself to be tricked, knowing that today you can’t lend anything) Most jokes are in good fun.

What is the best practical joke you have played or heard about?

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco. ¡Olé! –Rebecca

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Tropical Plant, Bolz Conservatory, Madison Photo: Rebecca Cuningham
Rebecca Cuningham

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