Today is Father’s Day in at least 72 different countries around the world, everywhere from the United States and the UK to Zimbabwe. But how did Father’s Day get started, and why do so many countries celebrate it on the third Sunday of June?
Father’s Day was the brainchild of Sonora Smart Dodd, a twenty-eight year old woman who helped her father raise her younger siblings after her mother died in childbirth. Only two years earlier, Mother’s Day had been established as a holiday in the US, and she felt that fathers deserved similar recognition.
The first Father’s Day was a local celebration held on June 19, 1910 by the Spokane Ministerial Alliance in Spokane, Washington, where the family had settled. Father’s Day didn’t really begin to take off until the 1930’s, though, when Dodd returned from school and began promoting it again. She wasn’t alone in her fight, and while some of her allies (like the tie/menswear industry) had less-than-altruistic motives, they had the money and national clout needed to gain acceptance for the holiday.
The third Sunday in June was made an official US holiday in 1966, by President Lyndon Johnson. It’s since spread around the world, and even countries who aren’t celebrating it today generally have a day set aside on the calendar for it.
Perhaps the most unusual way to celebrate Father’s Day comes from Germany (though they celebrate it on Ascension Day instead of the third Sunday in June.) Here, it’s tradition for men of all ages to band together and go out hiking, pulling a wagon filled with beer, wine and food behind them. These days, however, many German fathers eschew this tradition in favor of more family oriented celebrations. After all, when your family is trying to celebrate your virtues as a parent, it’s simply bad form to get smashed.
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there! Are you celebrating? How?