In Spain, Italy and Portugal, Father’s Day is celebrated on 19 March, which is the Feast of St. Joseph who is the patron saint of fathers. In Germany, Father’s Day is celebrated on the same date as Ascension Day.
A customary day for the celebration of fatherhood in Catholic Europe is known to date back to at least the Middle Ages, and it is observed on 19 March, as the feast day of Saint Joseph, who is referred to as the fatherly Nutritor Domini (“Nourisher of the Lord”) in Catholicism and “the putative father of Jesus” in southern European tradition. This celebration was brought to the Americans by the Spanish and Portuguese, and in Latin America, Father’s Day is still celebrated on 19 March. The Catholic church actively supported the custom of a celebration of fatherhood on St. Joseph’s day from either the last years of the 14th century or from the early 15th century, apparently on the initiative of the Franciscans.
In the Coptic Church, the celebration of fatherhood is also observed on St Joseph’s Day, but the Copts observe this celebration on July 20. This Coptic celebration may date back to the fifth century.
While many countries around the world observe Father’s Day on the same date in a similar manner, some celebrate at different times with unique festivities held throughout the year. Living overseas provides us with the unique opportunity to learn more about other cultures and experience their traditions first-hand.
In Germany, Vatertag (Father’s Day) is celebrated on Ascension Day, which is always 40 days after Easter.
Historically speaking, it’s a public holiday reserved for Christians to attend special church services that memorialize the day Jesus rose into heaven. In recent years, however, the celebration has become a day for fathers to liberate themselves from parenting responsibilities. Traditional festivities include carting wagons packed with cases of Bier and Schnapps into the wilderness for a carefree day of off-the-grid fraternization.
For Italians, ‘Festadel Papa’ is held on March 19 — St. Joseph’s Day.
St. Joseph (San Giuseppe), the father of Jesus Christ, is a paternal symbol of love, compassion, kindness and generosity for the Roman Catholic Church. After attending mass where churchgoers pray to St. Joseph, children greet their own fathers on the street as a sign of love and respect. Later in the day, families often celebrate by preparing a grand feast that includes special Italian breads and cookies, such as zeppole (deep-fried dough balls), bigné (cream puffs) and frittelle(fritters). Traditional festivities also consist of live music, dancing, donkey races and bonfires.
Father’s Day is also a family affair in the UK, and traditions are much like those held in the US. Cards and gifts are given, and dads are taken out to a local pub or restaurant for a hearty, traditional meal of roasted meat, stuffing, potatoes and vegetables paired with pints of heady beer.
Rest of Europe
Portugal, Spain, Croatia and Belgium
Papas are remembered alongside the religious ceremonies that accompany St. Joseph’s Day (March 19). Belgium also celebrates a secular version of the holiday on the second Sunday in June.
Dad’s are honored on the second Sunday in June.
The Netherlands, Malta and France
Like the US and UK, Father’s Day is celebrated on third Sunday in June.
Norway and Sweden
Farsdag or Fars Dag, respectively, is the second Sunday in November.