Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Bloody Fourth Day of Christmas: Holy Innocents

By Esau McCaulley
“The Massacre of the Innocents,” an 1824 painting by Léon Cogniet. Léon Cogniet/Musée des Beaux-Arts, via Alamy
The song “The 12 Days of Christmas” paints a whimsical picture of the stretch of time between Christmas Day and Epiphany. In reality, this song has nothing to do with the way that Christians are called to celebrate the season. Within the narrative of the Christian calendar, the birth of Christ is followed not by leaping lords and milkmaids but by a massacre of children. The Feast of the Holy Innocents, observed on Dec. 28 by Western churches and on Dec. 29 by Orthodox churches, speaks a particularly powerful word to this cultural moment. A “furious” Herod then orders the killing of all the boys 2 years and under in Bethlehem. [More]