Most of us are familiar with the origin and history of Mother's Day and its linkage back to ancient goddess festivals, England's Mothering Sunday, the American political activist Julia Ward Howe, and finally Anna Jarvis's campaign from church to church to declare her devotion to her own mother.
But the history and origin of Father's Day is less well-known. I did a bit of research because of this, and found that the idea of a complementary "Father's Day was the brainchild of Sonora Dodd, who first had the idea while she was sitting in church listening to one of these Mother's Day sermons in 1909.
She wanted to honor her own father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, who was widowed when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children, by himself, on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. Her father had raised them, as a single father, with many sacrifices and in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man. Sonora believed that if a single father had raised and loved children with selfless devotion as hers had, then those fathers deserved their own day of devotion, just as the mother's had. Thus, the first Father's Day, was actually intended for single dads who served as the only parent, and not all dads in general. It simply grew into the holiday we know it as, today.
Sonora's father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father's Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on the 19th of June, 1910. She had wanted the use his birth date but pending legislation was slowed down until President Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, supported the idea of a national Father's Day. Eventually, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation (1966) declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's Day. President Richard Nixon signed the law which finally made it permanent in 1972. In this sense, it is a relatively newer celebration, but one which most of us have celebrated throughout our own lives.
While other countries may or may not have their own versions of this day, some of the variations are quite interesting. In Germany there is no such thing as Father's Day but there are two terms and/or events of an older origin that while similar in name, have entirely different meanings.
Männertag, is always celebrated on Ascension Day (the Thursday forty days after Easter), which is a federal holiday. Regionally, it is also called men's day, Männertag, or gentlemen's day, Herrentag. It is tradition to do a males-only hiking tour with one or more smaller wagons, Bollerwagen, pulled by manpower.
In countries with Roman Catholic tradition, Fathers are celebrated on Saint Joseph's Day, commonly called Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, though in most countries Father's Day is a secular celebration and celebrated separately from the feast holiday.
In Taiwan, Father's Day is not an official holiday, but is widely observed on August 8, the eighth day of the eighth month of the year. In Mandarin Chinese, the pronunciation of the number 8 is ba. This pronunciation is very similar to the character "?" "bà", which means "Papa" or "father". The Taiwanese, therefore, usually call August 8 by its nickname, "Baba Day." In Thailand, Father's Day is set as the birthday of the king and thus varies from generation to generation of its royalty. No matter what your country, your culture, or traditions, today is still a special day to honor fathers everywhere.
In honor of my own father, who at age 92 still works hard every day of his life caretaking my 83 year old mother who suffers from Alzheimer's, diabetes and is legally blind, I show above the photo quilt that I made a few years ago which I titled "Turning Ninety" , a variation of a "Turning Twenty" pattern that I made for his 90th birthday that I attended in my hometown of Douglas, Alaska where my father is from a large pioneer Alaskan family.
As a WWII veteran, the father of 5 children, and a hard working and very dedicated and loving husband to my mother, I honor him as my own father, today. Happy Father's Day to dad's everywhere!