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 in1889. He worked tirelessly in a colony that housed sufferers of Hansen’s disease that was located on the island of Molokai.

He would spend his entire life working to alleviate those suffering from leprosy and would eventually succumb to the disease on April 15, 1889. In 2009, he would eventually be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI and is now referred to as Saint Damien-which is why this holiday is sometimes referred to as Saint Damien Day.

Facts About Hansen’s Disease

During the course of our research for Father Damien (aka Joseph De Veuster), we decided to do some research on Hansen’s disease. Below are just some of the facts that we found out about this disease that practitioners of this holiday might be interested in knowing.

  • Another name for Hansen’s disease is leprosy. It’s caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae.
  • Hansen’s disease can permanently damage a person’s nerves and can cause skin lesions.
  • Leprosy cases still occur, although they’re a lot 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 2-years.
  • Armadillos can carry the bacteria that cause leprosy and pass them to humans.
  • It’s estimated that approximately 95% of humans are immune to the bacteria that cause leprosy.

Observing Father Damien Day

This holiday is observed through the practice of 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. The one thing that doesn’t happen on this day, however, is the closure of businesses or government agencies. That’s because this isn’t a public holiday.

Where is it celebrated?
United States (Local observance)
When is it?
This year (2023)
April 15 Saturday
Next year (2024)
April 15 Monday
Last year (2022)
April 15 Friday