Spaniards celebrate Saint Joseph’s day on March 19. Did you know that Father's Day has a lot to do with Las Fallas? Keep on reading to discover the origin of this holiday and how it is celebrated in Spain.
As in many countries, the Spanish holiday calendar is heavily influenced by the Catholic tradition. For this reason, in Spain, Father’s Day takes place on March 19, coinciding with Saint Joseph’s day.
Saint Joseph’s day is a public holiday appointed by the Catholic Church to celebrate the life of Joseph, Mary’s husband. Joseph represents all the good values of a proper husband and a loving father in his role as part of the Holy Family. In addition, he is the patron saint of the Universal Church, immigrants, craftspeople, workers in general, and engineers, among others.
Thanks to the gospels, we know that Joseph was a professional carpenter. However, there are no written stories reflecting his own words. For this reason, he is commonly called the Saint of Silence. It’s very likely that Joseph died before Jesus’s public life began.
Through history, the cult of Saint Joseph has had several references scattered throughout the Christian world. Egyptian Copts had already devoted a day to Joseph in the fourth century. In the western world, the celebration gained prominence after the Dominican calendar was introduced.
Nowadays, the festivity takes place on March 19th, as the Roman calendar states. The date was officially established during the papacy of Pope Sixtus IV.
Despite all these precedents, it was not until the beginning of last century when Saint Joseph’s day started being celebrated as Father’s Day in Spain. This public holiday first began in the United States thanks to a woman called Sonora Smart Dodd.
In 1909, as she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon at her church in Spokane, Washington, Dodd realized that there was no special day that celebrated fathers. Her own father was a widower who raised Dodd and her five siblings, and she was determined to find a way to honor him. She convinced Washington State to create a Father’s Day, and the day was celebrated statewide on June 19, 1910.
Word spread across the country and around the world. Over the years that followed, more and more people began celebrating Father’s Day. It even received support from U.S. presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge. In 1925, Dodd wrote that the whole country was honoring fatherhood each year, but Father’s Day didn’t become an official federal holiday until 1972. In the U.S., it is celebrated on the third Sunday in June.
After the celebration’s success in the States, the holiday was adopted by several countries around the world, including Spain. The date, however, was sometimes changed to fit each territory’s traditions. For this reason, Spain and other countries have worked Father’s Day into the Catholic calendar by moving it to March 19th.
In the past, Father’s Day was an official holiday in Spain and people didn’t have to work that day. Nowadays, it is not recognized as a public holiday at the national level. However, some regions do book a place in their calendars to celebrate Saint Joseph. Currently, March 19th is a holiday in Valencia, Galicia, Murcia, Navarra, and the Basque Country.
In Valencia, another special celebration takes place on March 19th: las Fallas. This festival, devoted to Saint Joseph, has been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO since 2016. Even though the celebrations last several days, the climax takes place on the night between March 19th and 20th. With the cremà, the monuments that were specially created for this event burn in a spectacular show.
Outside of Valencia, Spaniards take the opportunity to honor all fathers. Traditionally, they gather to have lunch or dinner and give the fathers presents. It is common for Spanish kids to make crafts at school to give them to their fathers as presents. Cards, bows, and photo albums are some of the top gifts children give.
Now that you know how Father’s Day is celebrated in Spain, you have no excuse. Next March 19th, take your dad out for a meal and wish him a feliz Día del Padre.