Monday, 28 December 2020


Venerated on this day in the Calendar of Saints by the Catholic Church in celebration of the first, unwitting and anonymous, martyrs to the faith, making the event that according to tradition took place on the fourth day of Christmastide when King Herod ordered the mass execution of all male infants in and around Bethlehem.  Numbers of victims range from a couple of dozen to tens of thousands, depending on the sources.

Terrible as humans are capable of being towards one another, most scholars of all stripes agree that the murderous rampage, set off accidentally by the visiting Magi when they are warned off reporting back to Herod by a dream, is an invention by author of the gospel of Matthew to solidify correspondence between the ascension of Jesus and that of Moses—or Œdipus—whom also had to go into hiding and flee over a prophesy that would disrupt and challenge the status quo. The narrative only appears in the one book of the Bible and is recalled in the Coventry Carol. Authors Albert Camus and José Saramago separately suggest, controversially, that survivor’s guilt is why Jesus allowed himself to be ultimately crucified, him knowing along with his step-father Joseph what Herod had planned but only choosing to save themselves. The Massacre of the Innocents is commemorated in some places with role-reversals such as children officiating church services, like with Saturnalia’s master waiting on the enslaved, pranks akin to April Fools—begging off innocence—and the blessing of Christmas toys.