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The Feast of the Holy The Innocents

The Feast of the Holy Innocents is the commemoration of all of the male children who were killed under the rule of King Herod. The feast has been celebrated since 485 AD and the account can be found in the Gospel of Matthew.

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told that the Wise Men went to King Herod seeking the "one who had been born king of the Jews." Herod was greatly troubled by this news but assembled the chief priests and teachers of the law to tell them where this child could be. Their answer was that the child would be found in Bethlehem. Herod called the Wise Men to him and gave them the location and he asked that as soon as they found him, they would report back to him so that he might come and worship him as well.

The Wise Men found the Christ Child and worshipped him. They offered him gifts worthy of a king. As they started on their journey to return to King Herod, they were warned in a dream not to return to him so they returned to their homeland by another route.

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Wise Men, he was furious. To keep this infant king from one day growing up to take his throne, He gave orders for all of the boys two years and under to be killed in Bethlehem and its vicinity. These infants became known in the Church as the Holy Innocents. The day is also known as Childermas or Children's Mass because it is the day when the Church blesses children in a special "Children's Mass." This day is also a special day to remember those children who are suffering around the world. 

Ways to Celebrate

Allow your children to rule for the day. medieval monastery schools, it was traditional to elect one boy from among the students to be ruler for the day.  The boy was allowed to run the monastery for the entire day.  He decided what foods to eat, what they would do for the day, etc. The tradition spread to families and continues to this day. The youngest children of the family are given the rule of the house for the day and get to make all decisions for the day.

Play pranks on each other. In Spain, Hispanic America, and the Philippines, it is a day for pranks. These pranks are known as inocentadas and their victims are called inocentes. The rule for the day is that there can be no punishments for the pranks and no one can get angry about them.

If you're really brave, let your children have a flour fight! In Ibi, Spain, they hold a festival where the "innocents" dress up and incite a flour fight.

Listen to the Coventry Carol. The carol originated in Coventry, England where it was performed as part of a mystery play called The Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors.The play tells the Christmas story found in Matthew 2. The carol is about the Massacre of the Innocents and is a lullaby of the mothers to their doomed children.

Pray for all of the children who are suffering around the world.

Devotion for Holy Innocents Day

Light the Christ candle.Begin your devotion time with the following invitation to prayer:

Leader: The Lord be with you.

People: And also with you.

Leader: Let us pray.


We remember today, O God, the murder of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive into your arms of mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might confuse all the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Read Matthew 2

Close with a prayer thanking God for his goodness and asking for his

guidance and protection for you and all who are in any need or trouble.

End your devotion by saying the Lord’s Prayer together.

End your devotion by saying the Lord’s Prayer together.

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