Father’s Day is an international celebration of all the amazing men who have acted as our caretakers, providers, and support networks. What’s fascinating about the modern Father’s Day we all know and love is that it was founded by a woman.
The Origins of Father’s Day
Sonora Smart Dodd and her five siblings were raised in the late 1800s by their single father, U.S Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart. With Mother’s Day gaining popularity around the country, Dodd decided that her father deserved a day, as well, and organized the first celebration on June 19, 1910, at a YMCA in Spokane, Washington.
Her holiday fell in and out of popularity over the next few decades, but in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday in June to be the national Father’s Day. Today, many countries now observe Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June, with others honoring dads on different dates. While your family is planning your perfect day, take a look at how others are celebrating around the world. Interestingly enough, very few countries differ in how they shower fathers with love and appreciation on this special day.
Several African countries share the third Sunday in June as their Father’s Day. For some, this is a national holiday; for others, it is an unofficial but popular celebration. On this day, much like in America, dads are spoiled with gifts, special meals, and family activities. In South Africa, families get together for activities like picnics and fishing trips. Celebrations are often community events honoring the role of the father in society as a whole.
In many Asian countries, Father’s Day is not a national holiday but is still observed annually, as is the case in Taiwan where the day is observed on August 8th – thus creating some clever wordplay. Since the Mandarin Chinese word for eight is, “Bā”, the eighth day of the eighth-month can be referred to as, “Bābā.” This word shares a similar pronunciation with the Chinese word, “Bàba”, meaning “Dad.”
Although the August 8th observance began in Mainland China, the celebration is much less common there. In parts of Asia where Father’s Day is still a yearly tradition, it is mostly held on the third Sunday in June, and people commemorate the day with the classic traditions of gifts, cards, and family time. In Japan, many fathers will take the opportunity to splurge on themselves in addition to the usual activities.
Even though the modern version of the holiday is fairly recent, Europe has been honoring fathers throughout history. For hundreds of years, a celebration of fatherhood took place in European countries on March 19th, the feast day for Jesus Christ’s human father, Saint Joseph. Some European countries continue to celebrate in a religious context with Saint Joseph’s Day remaining particularly important in Portugal, Spain, and Italy. German dads are honored on Ascension Thursday, the 40th day after Easter when Christ is believed to have ascended into Heaven.
For other countries in Europe, the more popular celebration takes place on the third Sunday of June with the common secular Father’s Day traditions. Most Scandinavian countries have these same traditions but have their holiday on the second Sunday in November, so that it is half a year away from Mother’s Day. Russia’s equivalent is known as, “Defender of the Fatherland Day,” or “Man’s Day,” which takes place on the anniversary of the mass draft into the Red Army.
Although the modern concept of Father’s Day started in the U.S, Father’s Day traditions are thought to have originated in Babylon 4,000 years ago. It was there that a young man named, Elmesu, made the first Father’s Day card out of clay. In the card, he wished his father health and happiness. Today, Father’s Day is the fourth largest holiday for greeting card sales.
Many Middle Eastern nations join a majority of the world in providing fathers with presents and special meals on the third Sunday in June. However, for several families, Father’s Day is a constant observance. Honoring both fathers and mothers is an important element of Middle Eastern cultures, the importance of which is prominent in both the Quran and the Bible.
In South America, the third Sunday of June is also the predominant date for Father’s Day observances, with a few exceptions. In Brazil, journalist, Roberto Marinho chose the second Sunday in August as Father’s Day, because this coincides with the feast day of Saint Joachim, father of the Virgin Mary and patron saint of fathers.
While Argentina continues to hold festivities in June, there has been a push to move the day to August. This would commemorate José de San Martin, a 19th-century general who played an important role in South America’s fight for independence from the Spanish empire. He is widely known as the “Father of the country.”
This Sunday, if you are spending time celebrating the father figures in your life, know that most of the planet is doing the very same. We all want to give our dads the love and respect they deserve, what a nice thing to have in common.