Father Damien Day

Father Damien Day is a holiday in the U.S. state of Hawaii and is observed annually on April 15th. It honors Father Damien, a man who died of Hansen’s disease in 1889. He worked tirelessly in a colony that housed sufferers of Hansen’s disease, located on the island of Molokai.

He spent his entire life working to alleviate the suffering of those with leprosy and eventually succumbed to the disease on April 15, 1889. In 2009, he was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI and is now referred to as Saint Damien, which is why this holiday is sometimes called Saint Damien Day.

Facts About Hansen’s Disease

During our research on Father Damien (aka Joseph De Veuster), we decided to learn more about Hansen’s disease. Below are some of the facts we discovered about this disease that practitioners of this holiday might find interesting.

  • Another name for Hansen’s disease is leprosy. It is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.
  • Hansen’s disease can permanently damage a person’s nerves and cause skin lesions.
  • Leprosy cases still occur, although they are much rarer than they used to be.
  • Hansen’s disease can be treated with a combination of antibiotics.
  • The treatment for leprosy can take up to two years.
  • Armadillos can carry the bacteria that cause leprosy and pass them to humans.
  • It is estimated that approximately 95% of humans are immune to the bacteria that cause leprosy.

Observing Father Damien Day

This holiday is observed through several different activities. A flower garland called a lei is usually draped around the statue of Father Damien at the capital of Hawaii. Prayers are also spoken, and songs are usually sung. One thing that does not happen on this day, however, is the closure of businesses or government agencies. That’s because this is not a public holiday.

Where is it celebrated?
United States (Local observance)
When is it?
This year (2024)
April 15 Monday
Next year (2025)
April 15 Tuesday
Last year (2023)
April 15 Saturday