If this time of year is a little too drab and grey for your tastes, today would be a good day to head to the town of Hatillo, on Puerto Rico’s northern coast.

That’s where you’ll find a very colorful event known as Festival de las Máscaras de Hatillo: the Festival of Masks.

This event is actually part of a broader commemoration every December 28 of Día de los Santos Inocentes.

Many Spanish-speaking places celebrate this holiday each year the same way that many English-speaking places mark April Fools Day.

It’s full of pranks and jokes, though the roots of the day come from, as the name suggests, the Holy Innocents – the babies that, in Biblical times, King Herod ordered to be done away with in the hopes that he would do away with the baby Jesus.

That’s a pretty somber start for an April Fools Day-like holiday, but by some accounts the idea was that since Herod’s plan clearly didn’t work, the joke was on him.

Or it’s that people who fall for the practical jokes on this day are as innocent as a baby, or both.

The festival in Hatillo is a playful retelling of that serious story, one that’s also rooted in traditions from the Canary Islands that came to Puerto Rico two centuries ago.

It’s like a parade and a game all mixed into one.

Grown-ups are devil-soldiers, running through the streets wearing elaborate, colorful costumes, capes and masks to find youngsters.

You can get sprayed with water or hit with shaving cream if you’re watching from the roadside.

There are other kinds of costumes as well, along with big floats, dancing, music and lots of food.

Plus there are big crowds and lots of noise, so if you’re planning on going next December, you may not want to count on being able to sleep in.

Today in 1894, the birth of Burnita Matthews, the first woman to serve as a federal district judge in the US.

In 1919, she picketed outside the White House to push for women’s suffrage.

She said back then, it was legal to carry a banner but you could only speak without a permit.

“When they asked me why I was there,” she said, “I didn’t answer.”

Sometimes silence speaks volumes.

Photo by Joe Delgado via Flickr/Creative Commons