Children’s Day – Brazil

October 12.

It began with a two-foot tall sculpture. Headless at that.

Three fishermen were casting their nets in the Paraiba River in Brazil. The year was 1717. Their nets were turning up empty until one of the fishermen pulled up a dark brown headless statue of a woman. Intrigued the fisherman cast his net again and pulled up the head. After finding the statue, the men’s net grew heavy with fish. They called the idol Nossa Senhora da Aparecida–Our Lady Who Appeared.

For the first 15 years, the small black Madonna was housed in one of the fishermen’s homes. Legends grew around the doll and the miracles it performed, including one legend about a slave who visited the shrine, whose chains broke when he came in contact with the idol. It became a symbol of hope for the oppressed in Portuguese-controlled Brazil. By the 1760s, due to its popularity a basilica was built to house the shrine, and the town itself became known as Aparecida.

The basilica was renovated in the 19th century. In the 1950s a new, larger basilica was begun to accommodate the overwhelming amount of visitors.

The Pope declared Our Lady of Aparecida the patron saint of Brazil in 1928, and today the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida is widely considered the second largest church in the world after St. Peter’s. It can accommodate 45,000 people and receives almost 7 million visitors a year.

October 12th is the national saint’s feast day, but these days the holiday is also celebrated as Children’s Day. Children throughout Brazil look forward to this day all year, for it’s the day they unwrap gifts from their parents. In many places in Brazil, Children’s Day is even bigger than Christmas.

The Black Madonna and the Limits of Light

Saint Anthony’s Day

June 13

Saint Anthony of Padua

Cities and countries around the world celebrate St. Anthony’s Day, from Lisbon, Portugal to Wilmington, Delaware, not to mention cities in Brazil, Mexico, Italy, and even India!

The Brazilians get the jump on the celebrations by commemorating June 12, the day before his feast, as Día dos Namorados, or Day of the Lovers, a Brazilian Valentine’s Day, in honor of the matchmaker saint.

St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1195, so understandably the Lisboans claim him as their own. Like the Brazilians, the celebration begins the night before…

“When the sun sets, the whole town goes out to honor the saint with alfresco dining, grilled sardines with salad of peppers, irrigated course, with much red wine, and dancing to the beat of popular music…” (Lisbon at its Best)

In the morning, special services are held in the church built over the spot where he was born, and vintage convertible cars carry throngs of “St. Anthony’s brides” down the Avenue Liberdade.

Women write prayers and wishes on paper and tuck them into specially baked “St. Anthony’s bread”, a tradition that dates back to 1263 when…

…a child drowned in the Brenta River near the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua. The mother went to St. Anthony and promised that if her child were restored to life, she would give to the poor an amount of wheat equal to the weight of her child.  Of course her son was saved, and her promise was kept.” (Sardine Heaven: Lisbon’s Feast of St. Anthony)

The award for the most unusual St. Anthony’s Festival goes to San Miguel de Allenda, Mexico. There laborers originally celebrated May 17 as San Pascual Bailon (St. Pascal Baylon) Day, in honor of the patron saint of field and kitchen workers.

“To keep the paraders and observers separated, some paraders were dressed as scarecrows and their characteristic movements were described as “loco,” i.e., crazy. Somewhere along the way, paraders dressed as clowns replaced the field and kitchen workers, though the music and the dances stayed the same.” (El Dia de los Locos)

The popularity of the San Pascual Bailon parade overshadowed that of the more established San Antonio (St. Anthony), and the two festivities merged. Now the festival is held the Sunday after June 13 and is known as El Día de los Locos, or Day of the Crazies.

photo by Ronald Felton, licensed under Creative Commons

Fisheaters: Feast of St. Anthony of Padua

Lisbon’s Craziest Night

Italian Festivals in the U.S.

Book a hotel for St. Anthony’s Festival

Brazil – Independence Day

September 7

Had the Pope’s arm slipped just an inch that day in 1494, the people of Brazil might be speaking Spanish right now. But the vertical line in the Treaty of Tordesillas that split the world outside Europe between Spain and Portugal held steady. The Pope alloted the easternmost chip of the Americas to Portugal, while Spain got the rest.

The history of Brazil would unfurl quite differently from the rest of its neighbors, and indeed from all of the Americas.

As Portuguese explorers pushed eastward that chip of South America soon became the largest colony on the continent. A land that contained vast jungles, endless rivers, and bountiful resources unimaginable to the Europeans back home in Portugal.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon of France invaded Portugal.

The King of Portugal, João VI, fled to Brazil and declared Rio de Janeiro the new capital of Portugal and its possessions. (Imagine King George III coming to America and declaring New York the capital of Great Britain.)

Napoleon then did an about face and turned his troops on Spain. (This wasn’t hard to do, since the French army was already in Spain. Spain had given Napoleon permission to cross through to attack Portugal.)

As a result, South America was a scene of pandemonium for the next two decades. The Spanish colonies refused to answer to the French and declared their autonomy one at a time. Even when Spain kicked the French out of their homeland, the people of South America maintained their independence, leading to several lengthy wars between Spain and its colonies. From Buenos Aires to Santiago to Lima and beyond, the wars were hard fought and costly, both in terms of resources and human lives.

Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro

The situation in Brazil was different. João VI fell in love with Brazil, and when the French were booted out of Portugal in 1815, he refused to come home. João made Brazil its own kingdom, an equal partner with Portugal. But the folks back home were not so thrilled about this. They demanded that the royal family return to Portugal and that Brazil be made a colony again.

Eventually the king was forced to return home to maintain order in Portugal; his 23 year-old son Pedro stayed behind and became regent of the Kingdom of Brazil.

Pedro defied orders to return to Lisbon. The Portuguese Parliament limited his powers, and attempted to make Brazil a subservient colony once again. Upon hearing this news at the bank of the Ipiranga River, Pedro famously declared: “Independência ou Morte!” (Independence or Death!) The Grito do Ipiranga (Shout of Ipiranga) took place on September 7, 1822.

Grito de Iparanga
Grito de Iparanga

Pedro was proclaimed Emperor of Brazil on October 12, his 24th birthday.

In 1831, Pedro abdicated the throne to his 5 year-old son, Pedro II and returned to Portugal. Pedro II ruled as Emperor for nearly 50 years. In 1889 the Emperorship was abolished and Brazil became a republic.

Young Pedro II
Young Pedro II

Día del Amigo – Argentina, Uruguay

July 20

Día del Amigo has become a Christmas holiday without the gifts or family members. It has spread such that it no longer covers only friends, but anyone who walks by.

Ya Dimos, Marcelo Gantman


In Argentina and Uruguay July 20th is Día del Amigo, Friend Day. It’s not a public holiday, but more in the vein of Valentine’s Day—just a day for old friends to get together or strangers to get to know each other. It was promoted by Dr. Enrique Ernesto Febbraro, a professor of psychology, music history and dentistry, who was inspired by the feeling of global communion that swept the world as millions of folks all over the planet tuned in to watch or hear about the lunar moon landing on July 20, 1969.

Writes California blogger Disco Shawn upon visiting Argentina:

My first thought was to dismiss the whole thing as some sort of Hallmark holiday [but] …Apparently Febbraro’s efforts have paid off, as many Buenos Aires restaurants have been booked solid for a week or more. In 2005 part of the Argentinian cellular network crashed on Día del Amigo under the strain of so many people calling and texting their friends and loved ones.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Lunar Moon Landing by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and that other guy. For that reason, scientists have also proclaimed July 20th Moon Day. Moon Day hasn’t made as deep an impact as Earth Day yet, but if South America keeps up Día del Amigo, July 20th may give April 22nd some competition.

“To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold—brothers who know now that they are truly brothers.” — Archibald MacLeish

Día del Amigo is not to be confused with International Friendship Day, which was proclaimed in 1935 as the first Sunday in August, and which to the best of my knowledge nobody really celebrates.

El único momento de la vida en que me siento yo mismo es cuando estoy con mis amigos. — Gabriel García Márquez

The Man Behind Friend Day

Dia dos Namorados – Day of the Enamored

June 12

St. Valentine gets all the credit for bringing lovers together in the Northern Hemisphere, but in Brazil, that honor goes to Saint Anthony.

St. Anthony is the patron saint of Lisbon, Portugal, as well as of lovers and newlyweds. He died on June 13, 1231 in Padua, Italy, at the age of 36. The eve before his feast day in early June is the perfect time for Brazilians to celebrate with their special someone. Especially since in Brazil, February 14 falls smack dab in the middle of Carnival season and people have enough holidays to worry about without getting in a passive-aggressive fight with their girlfriend because they forgot to get a gift.

So next time your sweetheart is upset that you totally flaked on Valentine’s Day, surprise her on June 12th by explaining how you were waiting for the real lovers’ day: Dia dos Namorados.

And if that doesn’t fly (and it won’t), break out Bardanza.

Open your hands,
Give me the roses
You brought just for me.

Open your heart,
Write me a poem,
Read me the best part
Of our story.
I am still here,
Contemplating your sweetness,
Expecting your caress.

Open all the doors,
Here is the key…
Open the windows too,
Touch my soul again,
Say “I love you”…

Open up yourself to me
Forgive my mistakes,my madness,
I couldn’t stand your silence.
I couldn’t stand your coldness…

from “Forgive Me” by Karla Bardanza (Brazil)

St. Anthony
St. Anthony