Dia das Crianças—the equivalent of International/Universal Children’s Day—is one of the most important holidays in Brazil. Today schools are closed and fireworks fill the sky with vivid colors. Children receive presents from their families and friends, eat lots of cake and other candies, and have fun during a day that is meant to celebrate the well-being of all children in Brazil.
Children’s Day was established by the World Conference for the Well-being of Children which took place in Geneva, Switzerland in 1925. The Conference proclaimed June 1 to be International Children’s Day, but the official date varies from country to country with most countries celebrating this holiday on June 1 or November 20. In 1959, the United Nations recognized November 20 as the Universal Children’s Day, the same day in which it adopted the Universal Declaration of the Rights of the Child in an extended way. On the same day 30 years later, the UN also adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which “set out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children.”
The history of Dia das Crianças (Dia da Criança) began in 1924, when Galdino do Valle Filho, a former member of the Chamber of Deputies, wanted to ‘create’ a national holiday for infants and adolescents. Its proposal was approved and October 12 became Dia da Criança. In 1940 Getúlio Vargas, one of the most influential political figures in Brazilian history, established a new date for this holiday, March 25, which became an annual reminder for politicians to take into consideration the well-being of children when putting forward legislation that would affect education or the healthcare system.
Paradoxically, the holiday only became as relevant as it is today when, in 1960, the companies Johnson & Johnson and Estrela, a toy manufacturer, launched the ‘Semana do Bebê Robusto’, a commercial promotion which significantly increased the companies’ revenues and turned Dia das Crianças into a profit boost. The date has been October 12 ever since.
Frankly, it’s a bit sad to think that we need official holidays to celebrate children because, regardless of what the UN or governments say, children, like peace, must be celebrated and supported every day. But it is very interesting to see how Children’s Day is celebrated in countries around the world.
Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, more commonly called Nossa Senhora Aparecida, is the patroness of Brazil. Venerated in the Catholic Church, she is represented by a terracotta statuette which can be found in the Basílica de Nossa Senhora Aparecida located in Aparecida, in the state of São Paulo. It became a national holiday in 1980 when Pope John Paul II consecrated the Basílica. On this day hundreds of thousands of people travel to Aparecida to attend a special mass. The church is large enough for 45000 people, but I was told that more than 200000 people are going to be there.
This year the holiday is a bit more special because it marks the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the statue in October 1717. Stories about the maker of the clay statue are somewhat unclear. Some say it was imported from Portugal; others believe that Frei Agostino de Jesus, a monk from São Paulo and an excellent craftsman, made it.
Legend has it that Dom Pedro de Almeida, then Governor of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, was passing through Guaratinguetá, a very small city in the Vale do Paraíba. The village’s people held a feast in his honor, and three fishermen went fishing in the Paraíba river. They prayed for a rich catch, but they weren’t successful. They were so unlucky that they dragged up a small headless statue. After having found the head, they cleaned it and, according to popular tales, netted so much fish that they were forced to head back home. The villagers started to venerate the statue which later became the most important religious symbol of Brazil.
Although there is no particular reason behind celebrating these two holidays on the same day, I like to think that there is a symbolic relationship between them. Both Senhora Aparecida and children bless Brazil’s future. After all, children are the protectors of this nation—and of the world. They have yet to be intoxicated and deceived by this destructive system of ours. They are the purest human beings, the holders of the seeds that will determine the future of Brazil—and of the human race.