We have already celebrated Mother’s Day, and this month, families across the world will be celebrating the special bond between fathers and their children. For many, it will be a time to spend quality time with their dads, share a meal, and give gifts or cards. However, some people take it for granted and criticize it as a commercial event while others disdain and scoff at it as a sloppy attempt to domesticate manliness with gifts and flowers.
As a result, it seems as if Father’s Day has not been met with the same enthusiasm as Mother’s Day. Despite all that, the day is more historical and sentimental than many people think- it is the 5th most popular card-sending holiday (after greetings, Christmas, Valentine’s and Mother’s days) with more than USD95 million cards in sales.
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Why Father’s Day?
Father’s Day is a day of the year set aside to honor fathers, celebrate fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of father-figures in the society. It is not just the fathers that are celebrated but also husbands, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, sons, and sons-in-law, among many other honorees. It complements celebrations honoring family members such as Mother’s Day, Siblings Day and Grandparents Day.
A Brief History of Father’s Day
Most people do not know the history of this holiday. In fact, some think that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day evolved at the same time. It might be the first logical assumption, but it is far from the truth. Unlike Mother’s Day, Father’s Day was met with laughter, satire, and parody. One of such incidences was when a local newspaper complained that Father’s Day would result in mindless promotions like a ‘National Desk Cleaning Day.’
So, where exactly did the tradition of Father’s Day come from?
The earliest documentation in the US shows that it was first celebrated in 1910, in the state of Washington. Several people tried pushing for an official Father’s Day celebration, but it is Sonora Smart Dodd, who is credited for popularizing it. She pushed for an establishment of a day equivalent to Mother’s Day by going all over the state to raise support for a Father’s Day. Her story began when she was seated listening to a Mother’s Day sermon, and she thought it would be an excellent idea to honor fathers as well. Her dad, William Smart had raised six children alone, after his wife had passed away bringing to life their sixth child.
On 19th July 1910, her efforts bore fruit when the State Governor passed a law, establishing the first official Father’s Day in America. Fourteen years later in 1924, John Calvin Coolidge Jr, the 30th president of the US, liked the idea of a national holiday and urged state governments to make the third Sunday in June Father’s Day. Since then, this date has received wide acceptance and success not just in the US but also in many countries around the world.
However, even before 1910, there were instances in history that show that several individuals celebrated male parenting. For example, on the 5th of July 1908, Grace Golden Clayton made what should have been the first official observance of Father’s Day. Clayton was mourning the loss of her dad, who was a victim of the Monongah Mining Disaster, which killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers (this was among the worst mining disasters in US history, and it left more than 1000 children fatherless).
Clayton asked her pastor Robert Thomas Webb to honor all those fathers, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church presently known as the Central United Methodist Church. Clayton’s event did not have a significant impact and was thus not promoted, yet Mother’s Day was already enjoying overwhelming popularity. That was because first, the city council did not proclaim the event, and second, it was overshadowed by the celebrations of the Independence Day (July 4th) which took over the headlines in the next couple of days. As a result, the local church did not promote the event, the original sermon was not reproduced, and the event was not celebrated again for several years.
Other scholars have the opinion that Father’s Day history is not even a hundred years old as the official documented accounts old. They say that the tradition of honoring fathers could be over 4,000 years old. In the ruins of Babylon, historians have recorded that a young boy by the name Elmesu carved a Father’s Day card using clay, to wish his dad good health and long life.
Although there are all these accounts, we are glad to have a day to impress our fathers in the full measure of their obligations.
When Is Father’s Day Celebrated?
Due to different traditions and customs, Father’s Day is not celebrated on a common date worldwide. When Father’s Day celebration was introduced to Latin America by the Portuguese and Spanish, it was observed on March 19th. Later as it spread to other countries, European and American states adopted the third Sunday of June. Other countries that took this date include India, China, Japan, the Philippines, South Africa, and many more.
In other parts of the world, Father’s Day is commonly celebrated in March, April, or June. Spain, Portugal, and Italy still hold the celebrations on March 19th. Russia celebrates on February 23rd, Germany the first Sunday of June, Austria and Belgium on the second Sunday of June, while Australian and New Zealand dads are honored on the first Sunday of September.
When Is Father’s Day in 2018?
Although Father’s Day is celebrated on various dates globally, many countries and specifically the USA, observe this day on the third Sunday of June, falling on June 17, this year (2018). On this day, families will typically celebrate their father figures using cards, gifts and special treats. Children’s programs will also have activities to ensure that the kids specially honor this day. Moreover, the United States Open Golf Tournament is scheduled to end on this day- so you can consider this as a treat for your dad.
Father’s Day Traditions and Customs Around the World
Not all fathers get breakfast in bed, flowers or read adorable Father’s Day cards. In Mexico for instance, dads participate in a 21km marathon known as Carrera Dia del Padre 21k Bosque de Tlalpan, through the capital city. The families later enjoy a feast topped off with sweet bread. Similarly, fathers in Germany celebrate by taking part in all-male activities such as hiking, biking, and drinking. Mums stay home with children while men have the fun of their lives with beer and liquor.
Here are other interesting traditions:
- Children in Japan spend time gathering flowers, handmade beer glasses, Japanese candies and sweets for their fathers. The mums then prepare sea-based celebratory foods which commonly include crabs and prawns. Personalized champagne, beer bottles, sandals, and perfumes also pass as gifts form the wives.
- For New Zealand, kids gift their dads handmade cards, sweets, and prepare the dad’s favorite meal and a cup of tea.
- In Finland, dads sleep in and enjoy their specially made breakfast. Schools also serve coffee and cakes on the Friday preceding Father’s Day.
- For the Nepalese, apart from giving gifts, they also have a ceremony where boys touch their father’s feet with their heads while girls touch their heads to their fathers’ hands.
- In South Africa, children present gifts and cards to their fathers, just like in the US. They also spend time fishing or picnicking.
- In Russia, Father’s Day is also known as “Defender of the Fatherland Day” or “Men’s Day.” Fathers and military veterans are celebrated in parades and processions. Women also give small gifts to their men.
- In Thailand, Father’s Day celebrations are set on December 5th, the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (the ninth monarch of Thailand). Thais mark the day by giving their dad or grandpa a Canna flower, which is considered to be flower with a masculine touch. They also dress in yellow, take part in fireworks and acts of charity and honor- the most distinct being donation of blood and liberation of captive animals.
- Families in Uruguay honor dads by hanging small replica skeletons outside their homesteads. The skeleton represents Father Skeleton, a mythical father figure.
- For Brazilian families, it’s all about the meat. They gather for barbeques or churrasco either at home or Brazilian steakhouses.
- In Italy, Spain, and Portugal, Father’s Day comes on March 19th,and it coincides with St. Joseph’s Day. Most families go to church, and kids give handmade cards and gifts to their dads.
- In Australia, it is a tradition to honor 32 dads as “Father of the Year,” from each of the 32 municipalities.
Now that you are up to date with what other people do, why not get some inspiration from these traditions to make this year’s Father’s Day a unique one? We are sure that your dad will enjoy golf, cycling or wine-tasting just like dads in Germany. If he is the adventurous type, why not organize a family hike or run just like it is done in Mexico? Handwritten notes and family fishing are other fabulous options to emulate from the South Africans.
Random Fun Facts about Dads and Father’s Day
- In the US alone, there are more than 70 million dads. More than 24 million are in married couple families with children less than 18 years, and about 2 million are single fathers.
- Spending on Father’s Day is more than $10billion each year, with an average person spending about $115 on presents and treats. However, this is much less than what people use on Mother’s Day- $21billion.
- George Washington, the widely celebrated Founding Father of the US, had no children on his own. He was the driving force behind the establishment of the nation, as a Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. It was believed that George Washington suffered a childhood illness that rendered him infertile. He adopted two children from Martha Custis’s first marriage.
- One of the most touching messages to a father was from a son named Rick, who has cerebral palsy. His father, Dich Hyot, would pull him through hundreds of marathons and triathlons. Though Rick could not speak, he used a custom-designed computer to communicate. When they ran together in a race that his dad set a personal record, Rick, wrote his dad a message, “Dad, when we were running, it felt like I was not disabled anymore!” This message has inspired so many other notes and cards sent to dads all over the world.
- Flowers are a loving and thoughtful gift not only meant for women. Roses are the official flowers for Father’s Day, and traditionally, fathers receive white or red roses. If you are planning to dorn a flower on this particular day, then wearing a red rose represents a living father while a white one signifies a deceased father.
- The world’s oldest father is believed to be Ramajit Raghav, an Indian whose 52-year old wife who gave birth in 2010 when he was 96 years of age. Ramajit, a former wrestler, had remained celibate until when he was in his 80s.
- The tradition of drinking water from a fountain was started by Halsey Taylor, as homage to his dad who succumbed to an outbreak of typhoid fever after taking water from a contaminated public source in 1896.
- The term dad has its origin in an infant’s speech while the Latin word for father is Patri, a root for several other words including patriarch, patrician, and patron.
- Neckties are one of the most popular gifts for Father’s Day. A tie is an easy choice for many, one size fits all, and a good one can ever be missed.
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