There are multiple reasons for celebrating in Brasil tomorrow (October 12th). First it’s Children’s Day, know here as O Dia das Crianças. It is the day of Our Lady of Aparecida, the official patron saint of Brasil. Also, it’s the birthday (dedication day) of Cristo Redentor. Let’s look at each one a little more in detail.
Children’s day is something we don’t have in the United States. Well… Wikipedia says we do on June the 3rd (but that it my vary from state to state). I however, have never witnessed nor heard of anyone celebrating it. Had I known, little me would have had another day to demand presents. The United Nations adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child on November 20th, 1989 but the celebration of the day began in the early twentieth century. An interest, possibly inspired by a vision of Jesus, of and the need to help impoverished children caused a British woman named Eglantyne Jebb to embark on a lifelong mission to help the hungry and poor children. One of her endeavors was the Save the Children’s Fund. The original Declaration of the Rights of the Child was drafted by Eglantyne herself. In Brasil, on November 5, 1924 Children’s Day was approved by the house to be celebrated on October, 12th. Over the years, it appears to have become a much more commercialized day in Brasil. There are news reports with suggestions for the best places to shop for O Dia das Crianças and ads with happy smiley kiddies giddy with anticipation of their presents. MGFI’s eyes light up when she reminisces about her Dias das Crianças. I don’t know if the spirit of the rights of children has been a little obscured over time but the same could be argued about the spirit of Christmas also being diluted by capitalism. We’ll get back to Christ in a bit . Let’s talk about Our Lady of Aparecida first.
Nossa Senhora Aparecida’s or Our Lady of Aparecida’s story begins in 1717 when a group of fishermen caught a headless statue after asking for God’s help in catching fish. They recast and brought up the head shortly after. A miracle then occurred when they continued to fish and caught so many that the weight of their overall haul threatened to sink their boat. The statue itself was a black Madonna (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception) that had been sculpted by Frei Agostino de Jesus, a paulista (from Sao Paulo) monk. The statue is now located in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Aparecida, Sao Paulo where yearly millions of people make a pilgrimage to it. Pope Pius XII, in 1930, proclaimed Our Lady of Aparecida the “Queen and Principal Patroness of Brazil”. Her feast day, October 12th is now a public holiday in Brasil.
In 2006, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Aparecida was built at the base of Cristo Redentor in celebration of the statue’s 75th birthday. This year (tomorrow) marks 80 years that Christo has been perched atop of Corcovado towering more than 2,000 feet over Rio de Janeiro. Many world dignitaries, a couple of Popes, President Obama and family earlier this year, Rihanna during Rock in Rio recently and many many others have made the trip up to see Christ when visiting Rio. Construction of the statue began in 1922 but wasn’t opened to the public until October 12, 1931.
At 120 feet (including the pedestal), 98 feet wide and weighing in at 635 tons it’s no surprise that it was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.
Although I was not raised in a religious family there is something I really like about the idea of and vision of Christ standing with arms outstretched looking down lovingly and patiently on us all. He can be seem from so many places in the city. Even here in Niterói he can be seen across the bay in several places. Sometimes he is obscured by clouds, washed out by blinding sunlight or lit up at night like a beacon but he is always there…ready, patient and open. There is something comforting about that to me.
Although at first glance there may not be many similarities in the holidays tomorrow but a closer look reveals that there are more than meets the eye. The rights of children along side one of the most famous children in human history together with the mother of all mothers. The ideas of hope, the eternal availability of help, love and redemption are shared by all three celebrations. So… Happy October 12th to you all. Whether you are pilgrimaging, opening presents, viewing Rio from Corcovado or whatever your day brings, I hope it’s a good one.