Father's Day celebrations throughout Europe

by Courtney Woodruff
Stripes Europe

On the third Sunday of every June, we do our best to express our love for our fathers by presenting them with witty Hallmark cards and heartfelt gifts; homemade crafts, personalized coffee mugs, sporting equipment, patterned neckties, manly shaving accessories and doodads for the grill are usually among the go-to selections.

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 firsthand.


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, ‘Festa del 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.

Austria: 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.

For more tips about living and traveling in Europe, check out our digital edition of Welcome to Europe on Stripes.com

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