Did you know? Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were first celebrated in the same year – 1908 – but Mother’s Day was recognized as a national holiday 58 years before Father’s Day was.
The holiday has tragic origins: A West Virginia church held a public event on July 5, 1908, to honor 362 men who lost their lives in a mine explosion the previous December. The next recorded celebration of fatherhood, however, was less grim. Sonora Smart Dodd, a resident of Spokane, Washington, organized a statewide event after listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at her church and deciding that fathers deserved a day for recognition too. Her own father was a Civil War veteran who single-handedly raised six children following the death of his wife during childbirth. As a result of Sonora’s efforts, the state of Washington celebrated Father’s Day in 1910. Her hope was to hold the event on June 5, her father’s birthday, but the mayor of Spokane needed more time to sort out the logistics of the various planned festivities. Thus, the first official Father’s Day celebration fell on June 19 – the third Sunday of the month.
Roses played a significant role in that first Father’s Day, with daughters gifting their fathers with red roses as a part of the ceremony. Children also wore roses to honor their fathers – red, if their father was still living, and white, if he was deceased. This tradition has faded out of style over time, but the rose is still the official flower of Father’s Day.
Sitting President Woodrow Wilson commemorated Father’s Day in 1916, but he didn’t sign the paperwork that would have made it an official holiday despite doing so for Mother’s Day. His successor Calvin Coolidge encouraged the celebration of the day, but also declined to sign the proclamation that would legitimize Father’s Day. In 1966, Lyndon Johnson endorsed Father’s Day as a countrywide celebration – but only for 1966. Finally, in 1972, Richard Nixon declared the third Sunday in June to be, officially, Father’s Day.
Following Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is the fourth most popular holiday for sending cards. More than 72 million cards are exchanged around the world, with more than 40 countries celebrating some variation of Father’s Day. Some countries like Spain, Portugal, and Italy honor dads on St. Joseph’s Day, which falls on March 19.
With official recognition in 1914, Mother’s Day became a national holiday just eight years after its inaugural celebration. The acceptance of Father’s Day was slower initially because Congress feared commercialization. It gained traction through the 1920s and 30s even without official recognition, prompting the appearance of a movement on the scene with the goal of unifying Mother’s and Father’s Day into a single holiday, Parents’ Day, in order to avoid “a division of respect and affection” between a mom and a dad.1 This movement fizzled out, taking with it the proposed Parents’ Day slogan: “A kiss for Mother, a hug for Dad.”1
Father’s Day might look a little different this year, but there are still a ton of ways to celebrate Dad (and Grandpa too!) while still adhering to the COVID-19 preventative measures recommended by your state or local government. A picnic and an outdoor game tournament, camping and fishing, a talent show, a beach day, a family hike, or a small-gathering barbecue are all great ways to spend some quality time together on this special day. Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s something your dad or partner enjoys!
When it comes to gift-giving, Dad probably doesn’t need another tie, especially if he’s retired or not working at the office right now. Get creative and personal with a handwritten letter of appreciation, a storytelling project, or a piece of art that utilizes your particular creative strength (or your kids’). If you have kids, you could help them make breakfast for your partner, or direct the creation of a book of coupons that Dad can cash in for house chores or activities.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.