Friday, March 19, 2021

Origins of Día de San José - Father's Day

Today, 19 March, we celebrate Día de San José (Saint Joseph's Day) - in addition to it being Viernes de Lázaro (Lazarus Friday)[1] - a date marked on the calendar because Día del Padre (Father's Day), in European Catholic tradition, is named after Jesus' adoptive father. In many Spanish communities, this day is also a holiday: Valencia, Extremadura, Navarra, Galicia, Madrid, Murcia and the Basque Country. This is not the case, however, in the Canary Islands. 

The birth of Father's Day

It all began when an American woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, set out to honor her father Henry Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran who had lost his wife in the delivery of her sixth child. This event forced Henry to have to take care of the upbringing of all of them, which is why his daughter wanted to create this commemoration in his honor. Thus, in the United States at that time, the date of Henry's birth, June 19, was proposed as the ideal day to celebrate Father's Day.

This celebration was quickly welcomed by many countries: such as Germany, Argentina or Spain, although Father's Day is not celebrated on the same date in all countries. In those where there is an important Catholic tradition (as in Spain), this festival takes place on the day of José de Nazaret (Saint Joseph), father of Jesus of Nazareth (March 19).

Father's Day has existed as such in Spain since 1948, when its appearance was instigated by a teacher from Madrid (Manuela Vicenta Ferrero), who wanted to establish it after receiving a request from a group of fathers who asked that in schools (as was done with mothers), fathers also received a gift from their children. This teacher decided to write an article, in which she encouraged schools to adopt a day in commemoration of the work and love of fathers, proposing March 19 for its link to Catholicism.

The well-known department store, “Galerías Preciados”, were delighted with the idea and wanted to hire Ferrero herself to encourage the purchase of products designed as gifts for fathers. She rejected the proposal, although she ended up suggesting to the stores that they hire young men from her school for this purpose instead.

[1] Viernes de Lázaro (Lazarus Friday) is the Friday before Viernes de Dolores (Friday of Sorrows) - that's the Friday before Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) - which, in turn is the Friday, one week before Viernes Santo (Good Friday). Traditionally, Lazarus is a saint to whom those affected by various diseases go, and it was also invoked in the past before the epidemics suffered by some populations (perhaps we should have a word?), which is why hermitages dedicated to this saint are usually located at the entrance of those towns.