Father's Day and the History of Celebrating Dads

Father's Day and the History of Celebrating Dads

Father's Day is once again just around the corner, and after the warm reception to our history of Mother's Day we've been doing a little digging to find out where the great tradition of venerating fathers originally came from. 

Super Dad Father's Day Card ImageApparently the oldest known Father's Day card dates back 4000 years to ancient Babylon. It was made from clay and given to a father by his young son Elmesu, who wished him good health and a long life. Some also believe that there is a connection between Father’s Day and the solstice (which it sometimes co-insides with).

But Father’s Day as we know it is a relatively new event, and there is still some disagreement as to precisely when it began. There are, however, two notable stories about the creation of modern Father’s Day that are generally credited with kicking things off.

America and 20th Century Father's Day

Father Son ImageThe first of these is the story of American woman, Grace Golden Clayton, who in 1908 was grieving the loss of her own father when there was a mine explosion in a nearby town in West Virginia. The accident killed 360 men, 200 of which were fathers, and so, with the help of her local pastor, Clayton began to campaign for a day for honouring fathers.

The event was not well promoted, however, and Clayton’s choice of July 5th (her father’s birthday) as the date for the first Father’s Day celebration meant that the event was overshadowed by Independence Day in the USA, which was the day before

Sonora Smart Dodd Image

As a result the first Father's Day was, sadly, not a sucess. 

A year later another American woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, had the idea of honouring fathers when listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in Spokane, Washington. Her own father had dotingly raised her and her five siblings alone after her mother died in childbirth, and Sonora felt that there was great need for a day in recognition of fathers, as well as the existing one for mothers.

With much greater success than Grace Clayton before her, Sonora managed to build support for a day for fathers, the first one being held on the third Sunday in June 1910. 

Rose Image

At the first Father’s Day celebration people wore either a red rose in honour of a living father, or a white one in remembrance of one that had passed away, and Smart Dodd delivered presents to sick, housebound fathers in Spokane.

Although the day was initially met with scorn and derision by the media, who criticised it as merely an excuse for another holiday, Father’s Day was unofficially observed across America in its early years. 

Dad Image

It suceeded in gaining presidential support from Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and later Calvin Coolidge in 1924, but failed to garner support in Congress. Father’s Day was eventually given official recognition by Lyndon Johnson in 1966 and finally declared an American public holiday by Richard Nixon in 1972.


Father's Day Around the World

Father Son Image Since Clayton and Smart Dodd’s efforts to establish an American Father’s Day, traditions and celebrations for honouring fathers have cropped up all over the world. Many of these, including in the UK, are also celebrated on the third Sunday of June, but there are a number of notable and interesting exceptions and traditions.

In Germany, for example, Father’s Day (Vatertag) falls on Ascension Day every year (39 days after Easter) and co-insides with Man’s Day. This is often celebrated by men gathering together for a hike and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Official reports show that traffic accidents in Germany triple on Father’s Day! Which may influence your travel decisions.

Canna Flower Image

In Thailand, Father’s Day is celebrated on the 5th of December, which is the birthday of the current, reigning monarch, King Bhumipol Adulyadej. Traditionally children give their fathers' the yellow canna flower (dok Buddha ruksa), and candles are lit all over the country in honour of the King. Meanwhile, in several Catholic countries (Spain and Italy for example) Father’s Day is celebrated on March 19th to coincide with St Joseph’s Day, while in Mexico an annual Father’s Day 21k run is held on the third Sunday in June.

Father’s Day in the UK falls on the 19th June this year, which, funnily enough, was also the date on the third Sunday in June for the original 1910 celebration too!

Something Special for Dad

Ben Sherman Watch Image

So the question remains, how are you going to spoil your dad this Father’s Day? If you’re stumped for ideas, don't worry, we’ve put together a selection of great gift ideas to get you started.

Gentlemen's Hardware BBQ ImageIf your dad is a fan of perennial gift classics such as cufflinks and watches then you may want to take a look at our range of Duncan Walton cufflinks, as well as the Ben Sherman and Police watches.

We also have some ideal items for the dapper-dad in our Gentlemen’s Hardware range, which includes everything from wallets to flasks, and even a BBQ that folds into a mini suitcase which is proving popular! A little humour always makes for a great gift too, and there's certainly no shortage of fun things to choose from with our selection of Ministry of Chaps products.

Emporium If you want a good mixture of class and humour, we suggest you check out the great selection of fun-but-suave gifts by Emporium

Gliders Image

And for all those dads who still haven’t quite grown up (yes, you know who you are) we have some great novelty items, and toys that are dad-suitable too.

Finally, of course, don’t forget to get him the perfect card to say thank you for just being really rather great. So here’s to all the amazing fathers out there, what a fab bunch you all are!

Posted by Elena Woolley
9th June 2016

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