Why a day for Dad?

Why set aside a special day to celebrate Fathers?  The first thought that comes to mind is that mothers had one and fathers were jealous so they came up with their own day for recognition and started making their gift list.

Well, you might be partially correct but the real answer lies somewhere between envy and real concern for recognizing Dad’s role in our society.  Actually, both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day became celebrated holidays at about the same time in.

The first Mother’s Day occurred sometime after the Civil War.  It occurred in West Virginia where a large group of mothers got together in a small town to try to bring families back together after the war.  Brothers fought against brothers and sometimes father against son.  One of the women, Ann Jarvis, was an organizer of Mothers in the 1860s and was the first one to lend her name to the project.  In 1908, Jarvis’ daughter wanted to establish a national day to honor her mother who did so much for mothers in general.  A large Department Store in Philadelphia , with retail branches throughout the country, saw a chance for big profits and promoted Mothers Day nationally.  It caught on immediately and in 1909, 45 states celebrated the day and just 5 years later President Wilson made the 2nd Sunday in May,  National Mothers Day.

I just wanted to give you some “ whys and wherefores” on the comparison of the establishing of the holidays.  When someone brought up the idea of a Father’s Day, it fell flat.  One florist explained that people aren’t as sentimental about Fathers as they are about Mothers.

In 1908 a church in West Virginia honored 360 fathers in a sermon, who had died in a coal mine explosion, but this remembrance of Fathers just happened once.  Several years later, a woman named Sonora Dodd, in Washington State, wanted to honor her father, who by himself has raised her and 5 siblings.  She felt he should have the same recognition as Mothers who already had their day.  She was able to get a large group of sponsors and Washington State was the first State to celebrate Fathers Day.

However, as a Holiday, it spread slowly, with very little enthusiasm generated by the public or private sector.  Almost 14 years later, in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged all State Governments to observe Fathers Day but they resisted, citing that many men felt that it was an attempt to domesticate them with flowers and gifts.  There was even an attempt to scrap Mothers Day altogether, forget about creating a Fathers Day and then create another Day called Parents Day.

All of this happened during the Depression years and retailers were so busy trying to stay in business that they doubled their advertising and sales efforts and not only saved Mothers Day but promoted Fathers Day as a second Christmas for Dad.  They went right for the expensive stuff and pushed golf clubs, socks, hats, ties and many other items.

Then came WWII and with all the Dads going off to war,  retailers began promoting the soldiers as Fathers deserving of a day to honor them.   It may not have been a national holiday yet but it was being observed  by the entire country. Various members of Congress introduced resolutions over the years from the beginning of the War to 1965 but could not budge the majority to designate a day to honor fathers.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued the first Presidential Proclamation honoring fathers and designating  the 3rd Sunday in June as Fathers Day, but not yet making it a National Holiday.   Then, six years later, it took a President, waging a hard-fought re-election campaign, probably seeing it as a way to maybe gain a few extra votes, to do the deed.  In 1972, President Richard M Nixon signed a Proclamation which established the 3rd Sunday in June as the National Holiday.

Around the world, Fathers Day is celebrated in a great many countries on the 3rd Sunday in June, especially in countries in the west or those dealing with the west.  In others, the day of observance varies throughout the year.  In many European countries, where Roman Catholic tradition runs high, it is celebrated on March 19th, St Joseph’s Day and they carry it one step further by honoring their parish priests, as their spiritual fathers.

In the United States we honor our Fathers by spending more than a Billion dollars each Fathers Day to tell them how much we care for them!  What happened to a homemade card and a big hug?

Don Langrehr

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2 Responses to Why a day for Dad?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the great history lesson, it’s interesting to know how our traditions began. And Happy Father’s Day to you!

  2. Dona says:

    Loved reading how these holidays began. I really enjoyed it. Don’t forget Godfathers! Happy Father’s Day UD!


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