The Origin of Father’s Day

Father's Day

Via The NY Times

Father’s Day is this coming Sunday. It is a holiday celebrated worldwide,  honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. In the US, and in many other countries, it is celebrated on the third Sunday of June.

Some might figure that a holiday celebrating such an essential part of life would have been around for ages, but it only just became an official holiday about three decades ago.

How did Father’s Day come about? Most historians agree that it was created to complement Mother’s Day, which was first celebrated in 1908. There are many people who claim responsibility for the holiday’s creation. However, most people credit Father’s Day to a woman, believe it or not, by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd.


Sonora Smart Dodd

Via Boone County YMCA

She founded Father’s Day in Spokane, Washington at a local YMCA on June 10, 1910. After hearing about Mother’s Day, she collaborated with her pastor to create a similar holiday for fathers. She initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, but the community did not have enough time to prepare, and so the celebration was moved to the third Sunday of June. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very popular in those early days, and in the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting her celebration to focus on her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and began to promote Father’s Day again, this time with the assistance of the trade groups that benefited the most from Father’s Day. That is, most manufacturers and sellers of traditional Father’s Day gifts such as ties, pipes, and other goodies.  (Surprised? Father’s Day isn’t the only holiday to come about from corporate influence. Valentine’s Day only caught on in Japan when major department stores began promoting it.)

Even with their assistance, it took decades for the holiday to catch on, as most Americans resisted the clearly commercial interests of the holiday’s main promoters. In 1966, success was found when President Lyndon B. Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, Father’s Day was made into an official national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law.

As it turns out, Father’s Day may actually be a little over-commercialized. You can tell by how many sales for grills and ties pop up around this time of year. We can still choose to celebrate the holiday the way that Dodd intended though.


Father's Day


Instead of buying him the latest, shiniest power tools on the market when he already has three of the same kind sitting unused in the garage, perhaps the best way  to make his day is to simply spend some quality time with him. We could buy him all the power tools and ties in the world, and none of it would amount to the happiness we get from precious memories made together. Swap stories about your most recent adventures. Take him out to dinner with some close family and friends. And if you absolutely must get him a present, why not take a break from the usual and get him some table linens or bed sheets? It’ll brighten up his house, and it’ll be something that he sees everyday to remind him of you. After all, he’s probably more interested in acquiring more toys than thinking about how to decorate properly and making his hearth more beautiful.

What do you appreciate about your father? Let us know in the comments below!

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