Feast of the Holy Innocents, also called Childermas, or Innocents’ Day, is a day commemorating the massacre of the children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus. In the early church these children were regarded as the first martyrs.
This day was also one of a series of days known as the Feast of Fools, and the last day of authority for boy bishops. Parents temporarily abdicated authority. In convents and monasteries the youngest nun and monk were allowed to act as abbess and abbot for the day. These customs mocked formal expressions of religion. In medieval England the children were reminded of the mournfulness of the day by being whipped in bed in the morning; this custom survived into the 17th century. The day is still observed as a feast day and, in Roman Catholic countries, as a day of merrymaking for children.