The Translation of Father’s Day

The Translation of Father’s Day into practice: tough beginnings

We continue our series looking at the translation of national holidays and events with this latest instalment on the translation of Father’s Day in Western Europe.

Although Saint Joseph has been celebrated by the Catholic Church on the 19th March since the Middle Ages, Father’s Day, as we know it, is far more recent. Indeed, it was primarily introduced as a counterpart to Mother’s Day (which was imported from the US at the beginning of the 20th century as we were able to discover in our previous article on the translation of Mother’s Day).

To begin with, the translation of Mother’s Day into a holiday specifically dedicated to fathers did not take off. People failed to perceive it as anything more than the latest commercial strategy in a long line of ever craftier ploys. They were also widely reluctant to treat fathers with overt sentimentality and give them the same flowers and other little presents as mothers [1].

The Translation of Father's Day - Papa is Cool - An en Alain (Flickr)

The Translation of Father’s Day – Papa is Cool – An en Alain (Flickr)

The Translation of Father’s Day into a socialising event

Celebrating the paternal role

In Spain and Italy, the translation of Father’s Day into practice is influenced by the idea that all fathers should be celebrated beyond the single Catholic figure of Saint Joseph. The translation of Father’s Day in Spanish is “El día de la Padre” whereas the translation of Father’s Day in Italian is “Festa del Papa”.

You’ll be able to tell from the stylish diagram below that in Italy, for “San Giuseppe”, sweet dough balls are prepared to go along with the music, traditional dancing and presents for children: “zeppole” in the Northern half of the country, “frittelle” in the South [4]. Of course, the idea is to thank one’s father for everything he brings to the family and more broadly, to celebrate a particular family structure with the various roles it distributes.

The Translation of Father's Day - Baked zeppole, a pastry traditionally served on St. Josephs Day. Photo by Kyle Bruggeman.

The Translation of Father’s Day – Baked zeppole, a pastry traditionally served on St. Josephs Day. Photo by Kyle Bruggeman.

Father’s Day: socializing young men

It’s probably in Germany that the significant part this holiday plays in socializing people is the most obvious. Although Father’s Day doesn’t immediately appear on the list of public holidays in this country, it always falls on Ascension Day (« Christi Himmelfahrt »).

Fathers and young men traditionally stray off the beaten path to distance themselves both figuratively and physically from mothers (it’s called leaving, “Los von Muttern” [5]) as a way of ensuring that typically paternal customs are handed down correctly. The translation of Father’s Day into practice in Germany is a way of questioning, through the “Herrentagspartie” [6], what it actually means to be a father.

Sources and photo credits

[1] – History.com: Father’s day
[2] – Papa is cool! By An en Alain on Flickr
[3] – Zeppole by News21 – National on Flickr
[4] – Loveyoufather.com: Father’s Day in Italy
[5] – Kidsweb.de: Vatertag (webpage in German)
[6] – Berlin.de: Vatertag in Berlin (webpage in German, a Mytranslation language!)

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