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St. Joseph’s Day and the Return of the Swallows Celebration is a world-renowned tradition celebrating the annual return of the famous swallows to Capistrano. This tradition was started by Father O’Sullivan in the 1920s at Mission San Juan Capistrano, historic California landmark and home of the swallows, and is carried each year on March 19th.

Event Information

This historic celebration full of tradition, community, and festivity, is celebrated annually on March 19, marking the return of our famous swallows to Capistrano and the coming of spring – a time of renewal and rebirth.

Typical highlights of the day include:

• Ringing of the historic bells
• Live Mariachi music
• Community presentations
• Native American Storytelling
• Mission Basilica School performances
• Flamenco dance performance
• History of St. Joseph’s Day and Swallows Legend
• Craft Station for Kids
• Interpretive Station Tours
Coloring Pages
• Complimentary Garden Tours and more!

Mission Members

St. Joseph’s Day is FREE for Mission Preservation Society Members! Show your Member ID card with valid photo ID upon entry to receive free admission. No advance reservation or ticket(s) needed. Become a Member today to attend St. Joseph’s Day for free!

General Public

Advance ticket sales begin Monday, February 3rd at 10:00 a.m. Tickets will also be sold at the Main Entrance on the day of the event on March 19.

2021 Festival Admission*

Mission MembersFREE
Mission Member Guest (passes not valid)$12
Adults (12-59)$17
Seniors (60+)$15
Students (with valid ID)$17
Youth (5+)$12
Children (4 and younger)FREE

* The following vouchers/promotions/offers are NOT valid for entry on St. Joseph’s Day: Complimentary Admission Guest Passes, Members $5 guest tickets,  CertifiKID, Gold Star, Groupon and Travel Zoo. 

Ticket Policies

Ticket sales are final. Mission San Juan Capistrano is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. It requires immense effort and administration to process ticket orders. We are unable to accommodate refunds or exchanges. Thank you for your understanding.

Should there be conditions related to weather, rain, emergency or other conditions beyond control of Mission staff that should necessitate cancellation of the event, tickets will not be refunded. Please consider the cost of your tickets a charitable donation in support of Mission San Juan Capistrano, historic California landmark #200 and 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization #95-1904079.

Past Entertainment

“When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” Performed by Recording Artist, Renee Bondi
With Mariachi Tapatio de Los Angeles

Traditional Student Performances by Mission Basilica School 

Journeys to the Past Native American Storytelling
Presented by Educator and Acjachemen Descendent, Jacque Nunez

Native American Basket Weavers 

Duende Flamenco

Food Vendors

History of St. Joseph’s Day and Return of the Swallows Celebration

The swallows are said to migrate annually to Goya, Argentina in October, and return to their spring and summer home in San Juan Capistrano each March. The Swallows celebration began centuries ago when Mission padres observed that the birds’ return roughly coincided with St. Joseph’s Day on the church calendar, March 19. The celebration has achieved international prominence since then.

In his book, Capistrano Nights, Father St. John O’Sullivan, Pastor of Mission San Juan Capistrano 1910-33, relates how the swallows first came to call the Mission home. One day, while walking through town, Fr. O’Sullivan saw a shopkeeper, broomstick in hand, knocking down the conically shaped mud swallow nests that were under the eaves of his shop. The birds were darting back and forth through the air squealing over the destruction of their homes.

“What in the world are you doing?” Fr. O’Sullivan asked.

“Why, these dirty birds are a nuisance and I am getting rid of them!” the shopkeeper responded.

“But where can they go?”

“I don’t know and I don’t care,” he replied, slashing away with his pole. “But they’ve no business here, destroying my property.”

Fr. O’Sullivan then said, “Come on swallows, I’ll give you shelter. Come to the Mission. There’s room enough there for all.”

Mission Swallows Policy Statement

Our signature swallow consists of an illustrative fork tail swallow, in-flight. This type of swallow art is unique to the Mission San Juan Capistrano brand because of its popularity in the 1930s and usage in vintage and historic memorabilia. The American public, and even the world at large, has come to associate the Mission San Juan Capistrano landmark as the home of these famed birds. When the Mission portrays the literal swallows, we use the photographic, authentic and real life image. In graphic form, we use the romantic version, fork tailed, in-flight swallow.

Underwriting and Sponsorships

Underwriting and sponsorships available for all events, for more information please contact the Events Department at (949) 234-1317.

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Member benefits include free daily admission and other exclusive perks.

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Museum Hours

Tuesday - Sunday, 9AM - 4PM

Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Closed early Christmas Eve and Good Friday.
Hours subject to change


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26801 Ortega Highway
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
(949) 234-1300

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