Skip to content

Holy Innocents Day, observed annually on December 28, remembers the tragic deaths of children at the order of King Herod.

This day, rooted in a poignant biblical story, highlights Herod’s attempt to eliminate Jesus by killing male infants in Bethlehem.

Herod feared losing his throne to a prophesied new king. This event not only underscores the cruelty of Herod’s reign but also commemorates the first Christian martyrs, the young victims of this massacre.

The day is marked by a solemn remembrance of these innocent lives lost and is a powerful reminder of the destructive power of tyranny.

It serves to honor these young lives as the very first martyrs of Christianity. The observance is deeply significant within the Christian community, fostering reflections on innocence, sacrifice, and the profound impact of political actions on the most vulnerable.

The religious significance of Holy Innocents Day extends beyond remembrance. It encourages the faithful to appreciate and pray for all children, recognizing them as joys and blessings in our lives.

This day intertwines sorrow with the celebration of childhood. It urges people to reflect on the preciousness of life and the importance of safeguarding the innocent.

History of Holy Innocents Day

Holy Innocents Day, also known as Childermas, has a history that intertwines deep sorrow with evolving traditions. It originally began as a day of mourning for the young male children killed by King Herod.

He did so because he feared the prophecy of a new king that could challenge his reign. This tragic event is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, where Herod’s decree led to the Massacre of the Innocents around the time of Jesus’ birth, believed to have occurred between 6 and 4 B.C.

By the 5th century, the day had become a standalone feast and observed specifically on December 28th in Western churches and December 29th in Eastern traditions. The early church considered these children the first martyrs, celebrating their innocence and undeserved suffering.

Interestingly, the way Holy Innocents Day is commemorated has varied significantly across time and cultures.

It evolved from a somber day of fasting and mourning in the early centuries to including elements of mischief and joy in places like Spain and Latin America, where it resembles April Fools’ Day with pranks and lightheartedness also celebrated on this date.

This transformation reflects a broader cultural adaptation, mixing remembrance with contemporary customs of celebration and reflection.​

How to Celebrate Holy Innocents Day

Embrace Your Inner Prankster

One way to celebrate Holy Innocents Day is to unleash the spirit of the day, just like they do in Spain. Folks there turn December 28th into a mini April Fools’ Day, playing pranks and spinning tales. Pinning paper figures on unsuspecting backs is a favorite jest!

Reflect and Remember

Switching gears to a more serene observance, take a moment to light a candle and reflect on the poignant historical roots of the day.

It’s a time to remember the innocent lives lost long ago and to send up prayers for all children’s safety and happiness across the globe.

Festive Tune-In

For a musical twist, why not attend a special Feast Day Mass if you’re near a church? These services often feature music and messages that honor both the somber and celebratory aspects of Holy Innocents Day, making for a moving experience.

Get Crafty with the Kids

Since it’s a day that also celebrates the joy of childhood, why not spend some creative playtime with the little ones?

Crafting angel ornaments could be a fun and fitting activity. It’s not just about keeping the kids entertained; it’s about making memories together.

Dive Into History

Lastly, if you’re a history buff or just plain curious, delve into the rich historical context of Holy Innocents Day. Exploring its origins and evolution offers a deeper appreciation of its significance.

Also on ...

View all holidays
View all holidays

We think you may also like...

Calendar