Your guide to the history of Father’s Day

21 Jun 2020

It has always played second fiddle to Mother’s Day. The first modern Father’s Day celebration was held in Spokane, Washington in the US on June 19, 1910. It was organised by Sonora Smart Dodd, who had heard about Anna Jarvis’ efforts to institute a national Mother’s Day in commemoration of her mother Anna, who died in 1908. Sonora decided to establish a day celebrating her father, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and single father of six.

The third Sunday in June was an accident. Originally Sonora wanted the celebration to fall on her father’s birthday, June 5, but after consulting with her pastors, she decided it should be held on the third Sunday in June (June 21 this year). The day was recognised as an official holiday in 1972 when President Nixon wrote it into law, a full 58 years after Mother’s Day was established.

Father’s Day celebrations have their roots in the Middle Ages. Many Catholic communities celebrate Father’s Day on March 19, which is the feast day of St Joseph. While this is first and foremost a religious festival, children are encouraged to give their fathers small gifts and cook them breakfast. March 19 always falls during Lent, so this Father’s Day breakfast must be meat-free.

In Germany, Father’s Day is celebrated with… beer! The third Sunday in June is not a formally observed holiday in Germany, but it calls for a big celebration in the rural villages where men push carts full of beer through the streets. This practice is believed to have its roots in the 18th century when villagers would trundle their menfolk into the main square on carts and award the one who had sired the most children with a chunk of ham.

Father’s Day has an official flower. While it is common for mothers to be given flowers on their special day, flowers were originally associated with Father’s Day too. Carnations were the flower of choice for Mother’s Day, and roses were chosen for fathers. Sonora came up with the idea that people should wear a red rose if their father was still alive, and a white one if he had passed. Surprise your father this year with a bouquet of roses – a currently uncommon but very traditional practice!


21 Jun 2020