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Father’s Day: More Than Just a Day for Ties

A day to honor dad.

By:  |  June 21, 2020  |    853 Words

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Today is Father’s Day: the one time a year set aside to recognize and honor Dad. But it wasn’t always celebrated as it is today, and many men did not want the distinction. Some even considered it foolish. It was many years after Mother’s Day became popular that the idea and tradition of Father’s Day took root in the United States.

Despite American fathers’ reluctance to adopt the holiday, Christian holidays in Europe celebrated fatherhood in their own way for hundreds of years. This was done by celebrating Joseph, the father of Jesus – he is the patron saint of fathers, among other things.

Traditions to Celebrate Fatherhood

fathers day

St. Joseph’s Day table (Photo by Los Angeles Examiner/USC Libraries/Corbis via Getty Images)

Saint Joseph’s Day (also known as the Feast of St. Joseph) is an event held on March 19 by several churches, including the Catholics, Lutherans, and Anglicans. Since the day falls during the time of Lent, the celebrations would not normally include meat, but simple fare like bread or fava beans. In Italy, people would cook with breadcrumbs to resemble the sawdust of Joseph’s profession as a carpenter. This feast day isn’t generally observed in the US, except in New Orleans, where is is more popular due to the high number of Sicilians who migrated and settled there.

Another Christian festival celebrating fatherhood is the Sunday of the Forefathers, observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church. This event is actually part of the church’s nativity celebrations, and it commemorates the ancestors of Jesus.

The Birth of Father’s Day in America

Mother’s Day became a US national holiday in 1914. President Woodrow Wilson called the occasion a way to recognize “that tender, gentle army – the mothers of America.” Men considered it a feminine holiday associated with flowers and sentiment, something they were not interested in for themselves. But the push to give dads a day of honor began after Grace Golden Clayton wanted to show support for her own father, who was a reverend.

Clayton’s father had passed away in 1896, and after a tragic mining explosion that killed more than 360 men and left nearly 1,000 children without a father, she wanted to honor all dads. The first recorded Father’s Day was held during a Sunday service in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908.

fathers day family

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

However, Clayton is not credited with actually starting the day of honor. That distinction went to Sonora Smart Dodd, who was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909 and decided it was time to pay tribute to fathers as well. Dodd’s own father was a Civil War veteran who raised his daughter and five sons alone, after his wife died.

Dodd went to the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA, suggesting a special celebration on June 5, her own father’s birthday. The idea had appeal, but the ministers requested a later date set to give them time to prepare, and one that wasn’t so close to Mother’s Day. The first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane was held on June 19, 1910 (the third Sunday) and became a yearly event. Boys from the YMCA joined in the festivities by wearing fresh-cut roses on their lapels – red for living fathers or white for deceased.

President Wilson encouraged a law to celebrate fathers in 1913, but Congress did not pass the bill. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the third Sunday in June as a time to honor fathers. Still, it wasn’t until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed a law declaring the third Sunday as Father’s Day, that it became an official holiday across the nation.

Despite men feeling silly about having a day in their honor, there were some things that helped ease the path to the holiday. The Great Depression saw most families struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. This was a great excuse to get dad a tie, pair of socks, or some other clothing he may need but wasn’t about to buy for himself. World War II was another inspiration to show respect and support for dads on the front lines.

fathers day

(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Father’s Day Around the World

While most countries commemorate Father’s Day in some way, not all celebrate it on the third Sunday in June. Some Catholic countries like Italy and Spain still observe May 19, St. Joseph’s Day, as the date of their local Father’s Day holiday.

Norway, Sweden, and Finland chose the second Sunday in November for the day, while in Australia, Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September.

In Taiwan, Father’s Day is the eighth day of the eighth month (August 8) because in Mandarin Chinese, the word for “eight” sounds like “pa.” And in Thailand, locals celebrate on December 5, the birthday of former King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is seen as “The Father of the Nation.”

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