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St Joseph's Day

St Joseph's Day 2018 and 2019

Saint Joseph’s Day is a public holiday in most regions of Spain, being observed in accordance with the Roman Catholic calendar of religious feasts every March 19th. However, it also doubles as Spain’s version of Father’s Day, El Dia del Padre.

YearDateDayHolidayAutonomous Communities
201819 MarMonSt Joseph's DayExtremadura & Madrid
201919 MarTueSt Joseph's DayExtremadura & Madrid
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The connection between the two holidays, which have become one in Spain, is that Joseph is held up as a sterling example of what a good father should be like, having raised Jesus as his adoptive father. Although no one calls Saint Joseph’s Day “Husband Day,” Joseph’s role as a loving husband to Mary, the mother of Jesus, is also remembered on this day.

March 19th has been dedicated to remembering Saint Joseph in the Catholic Church since the 10th Century A.D., though it was only officially established in 1479. The day always comes during Lent, and thus, family feasting on this holiday is a “meatless affair,” though still quite delicious. Symbols of the day include pictures of Joseph holding various carpenter tools, holding baby Jesus, or holding a staff blossoming with lilies.

Not only in Spain, but throughout most of Europe, March 19th is Father’s Day. The honouring of fathers in general with a special holiday began in the U.S. due to pressure for a holiday counterpart to Mother’s Day. In 1910, the first Father’s Day was observed in Washington State, then in 1924, it was nationalised. Soon, it spread to other countries of the world, including Spain. The date, however, was made to coincide with Saint Joseph’s Day instead of the American date of the third Sunday of June.

In Spain, it is traditional for children to cook their fathers breakfast on March 19th, give them a small gift, or take them out to a restaurant. Some also give them a ham for the whole family to eat or, in the case of younger children, help them cook their favourite dish.

Those whose fathers have passed away often give money to charities in the name of their deceased father. While technically forgery, Spaniards look the other way in this case.

Should you visit Spain on Saint Joseph’s Day, some ideas on what to do include:

  • Attend special church services, which will be held in many locations all across Spain. However, you may wish to go to the Seville Cathedral, a massive Gothic structure nearby the tomb of Christopher Columbus. You might also consider attending services at Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral, with its two bell towers, central dome, ornate ceiling, and gigantic pipe organ. It is just across from the Royal Palace of Madrid.
  • Join the fun at Valencia’s Falla Festival, which runs for five days this time of year. It is held specifically in remembrance of Saint Joseph and ends on the 19th of March. Giant paper-mache or cardboard figures are constructed for the occasion and filled with firecrackers. They paraded around town, taken to a central square, and the blown up in grand manner. One of them, however, escapes this fate when chosen for preservation in a local museum.
  • While in Valencia, explore the city. There are excellent beaches at Albufera Park, along with a scenic lake, walking paths, and abundant bird life. Also be sure to tour Valencia’s historic district, the numerous museums and art galleries, and to try paella, a famous Spanish rice dish that was invented in Valencia.

Saint Joseph’s Day in Spain combines elements of a Father’s Day celebration with a specifically religious church feast Saint Joseph. The multi-day Falla celebration in Valencia, however, is the real highlight.