Holy Innocents Day is dedicated to children – the first Martyrs of Bartholomew, who were killed by order of Herod, as described in the New Testament. To commemorate these innocent children, the Catholic Church celebrates the holiday on December 28th.
According to legend, the magi came to the birthplace of Jesus and Herod the Great, the illegitimate ruler of Judea, asked to be told about the whereabouts of Christ, but could not get an answer. In response, the cruel king gathered his people and gave the order to kill all male babies up to 2 years old in Bethlehem.
The theologian Theophylact of Bulgaria argued that this was God’s providence, as it showed people the true nature of Herod. However, other sources report a large number of deaths, though the exact number is unknown. In church traditions, it is said that there were either 14,000 or 64,000 babies killed.
Renaissance artists painted vivid pictures that reflected the cruelty of the event, depicting the grief of mothers as their babies were snatched away by force, the bloodied bodies, and Herod indifferently watching. The first mosaics related to this event came to us from the 5th century and did not show explicit scenes of violence.
- Holy Innocents Day became a church holiday in the 5th century.
- This is the most miserable day of the year – innocent children are the first to suffer in the name of Jesus. The husband of the Virgin Mary had a dream that he needed to flee to Egypt – so Jesus was saved.
- The massacre was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah.
How to take part
To take part, dedicate time to children: play with them, buy treats, spend the whole day with them showing your love. Do not scold them today for pranks – let them have fun to the fullest! Attend mass and commemorate the martyrs.
When is Holy Innocents Day celebrated in 2023?
Holy Innocents Day is observed on December 28 each year.