May 27, 2022
When it comes to the origins of Father’s Day, credit is (usually) given to Sonora Smart Dodd, who, on June 19, 1910, honored her father—a Civil War veteran who raised six children as a single parent. Surprisingly, even though the holiday has been celebrated since 1913, it didn’t become a federal holiday until 1972 when President Nixon signed it into law.
Beyond a fear of commercialization, there were many reasons why it took so long. Prior to ’72, the holiday had its fair share of controversy. During the ’20s and ’30s, a movement arose by pro-parent groups to end both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and combine them into one celebration: Parent’s Day. The biggest push came when a radio performer named Robert Spere organized rallies around the idea that, while we should all love Mom and Dad every day, Parent’s Day could be a reminder to celebrate them both, together.
The Parent’s Day movement was ultimately derailed during the Great Depression, when retailers began to adopt Father’s Day, advertising it as something of a second Christmas for dads, encouraging people to celebrate the holiday with gifts, such as neckties, socks, tobacco, and sporting goods.
These days, countries around the world have their own similar traditions. For example, families in Thailand celebrate Father’s Day in December, on the birthday of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej who is considered the father of the nation. The whole family will wear bright yellow and present bright canna flowers to their fathers and grandfathers. The German version is “Men’s Day,” which involves encouraging dads to take a break from their responsibilities and participate in leisure activities.
Not sure how to celebrate this year? Check out these books on traditions, no matter the season!
- The Joy of Family Traditions: A Season-by-Season Companion to Celebrations, Holidays, and Special Occasions by Jennifer Trainer Thompson
- The Book of New Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Every Day by Meg Cox
And if you’re in the mood for a great movie, pop over to our list of films about fathers and father figures called Father’s Day and Every Day!
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