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The Origin of Father´s Day in Spain

by Mark Nolan
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man carrying baby drawing their foreheads

The 19th March is one of the most important days in the Spanish commemorative calendar, as it´s Father´s Day, and although the day does have religious roots, the history is actually more recent than most people realise, not stemming back to biblical times despite the day being celebrated on San Jose, St Joseph´s day, and what is more surprising to some is that the day was invented by a woman.

Every year in Spain, on 19 March, the religious celebration of día de San José is recognised, Saint Joseph ‘s Day, which is also el Día del Padre, or Father’s Day, a celebration for which considerably more attention is given than that of Mother’s Day, which is a little ironic when you discover that the day is, firstly, not as historic as you might think, and, secondly, was actually created by a woman. So, what is the significance of Father’s Day in Spain?

El Día del Padre honours fatherhood and the influence of man in the lives of his children, as an ancient tradition because Saint Joseph was the father of Jesus according to the Bible. On the other hand, in other European countries and most Latin American countries, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June and is not linked to religion.

Father’s Day in Spain takes Saint Joseph, a carpenter who took care of Jesus and his young wife Mary, as an example of man and life, which according to Christian belief was dictated by God.

In any case, whether or not it is due to religious tradition, in this Father’s Day celebration it is customary to give gifts to dad and carry out activities together, such as eating with the family.

The Origin of Father´s Day in Spain

In 1948, Manuela Vicente Ferrero, known by her literary pseudonym “Nely” and a teacher in Dehesa de la Villa, decided to hold a festive day at her school to entertain the fathers of her students. The idea arose in response to the celebration of Mother’s Day.

That first day in honour of the fathers included mass, the delivery of gifts made by hand by the children, and a children’s festival with poetry, dances, and theatre.

Her religious convictions led her to think about the appropriateness of choosing the date in the name day of Saint Joseph, considering him a model for parents and head of the Christian, humble and hard-working family.

The idea prospered and the teacher spread her initiative the following year through the pages of “El Correo de Zamora” and “Magisterio Español”, publications for which, during an interview on a radio show she personally explained to the listeners, the history of that “Day”.

It only took 5 years for the commercialisation of the day when the then managing director of Galerías Preciados, José Fernández Rodríguez, who in 1953 propagated the idea with a campaign in the press and on the radio, shortly after to be joined by a competing businessman, Ramón Areces, who was the managing director of El Corte Inglés, the much loved chain of department stores available throughout the Spanish territory. (Unrelated to this story, the latter eventually took over the former business).

So, the truth is, Father’s Day is not quite the religious fiesta we might think, not as old as we might expect, was the idea of a woman, and the celebration is now an important commercial claim.

The memory of what Manuela Vicente Ferrero achieved should never be forgotten, and she only passed away in 1999 at the age of 92.

The post The Origin of Father´s Day in Spain first appeared on Mark Nolan´s Podcast.


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