Father’s Day is a celebration that honors the role of fathers and forefathers. It is a modern holiday, though the ancient Romans did have a tradition of honoring fathers, every February, but only those who had deceased.
Around the world, Father’s Day is celebrated on different dates, though the day is celebrated in a similar manner, usually involving giving gifts to fathers and family activities.
When is Father’s Day?
The most popular date for Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June. This date was first observed in the USA and has since been adopted by many countries.
In Spain, Italy and Portugal, Father’s Day is celebrated on 19 March, which is the Feast of St. Joseph who is the patron saint of fathers.
In Germany, Father’s Day is celebrated on the same date as Ascension Day.
Across Scandinavia, the tradition of a Father’s Day was adopted in the 1930’s. Originally the American date was used, but in 1949 the Nordic countries decided to move it to the second Sunday in November. This was partly to place it half a year away from Mother’s Day but also it was chosen to increase sales in an otherwise quiet trading period before Christmas. The only country who didn’t fall in line was Denmark. They forgot to inform the public and press about the date change, so Father’s Day remained on the same day as their other early June holiday, Constitution Day.
In Taiwan, Father’s Day is celebrated on 8 August as the Chinese for eight is ‘ba’, while a colloquial word for father is ‘ba-ba’ – so the eighth day of the eighth month sounds similar to ‘daddy’. This was also the date for Father’s day in China, but the date was moved to the third Sunday in June.
History of Father’s Day
In the USA, the first noted Father’s Day celebration was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia. It was first celebrated as a church service at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church.
It is said that Grace Golden Clayton suggested the service to the pastor as a memorial after a mine explosion in nearby Monongah had killed 361 men the previous winter. Another explanation for the service was Mothers’ Day, which had been celebrated for the first time two months prior in Grafton, a town that was 15 miles away.
An alternative claim for the inventor of Father’s Day is the president of the Chicago branch of the Lions’ Club, Harry Meek. He is said to have celebrated the first Father’s Day with his organization in 1915; and the day that they chose was the third Sunday in June, which was the closest Sunday to Meek’s birthday.
A key figure in the establishment of Father’s Day was Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, whose father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, as a single parent reared his six children. Mrs. Dodd initially suggested June 5, the anniversary of her father’s death as a date for Father’s Day. It is claimed she did not provide the organizers with enough time to make the arrangements, and thus the celebration was put back to the third Sunday of June.
The first Father’s Day in June was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, WA. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge recommended the day as a national holiday.
President Lyndon Johnson made Father’s Day a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June in 1966, though the day was not officially recognized until 1972, during the presidency of Richard Nixon.