Brief History of Fathers Day

The history of Father’s Day does not have a definitive beginning. Long before it became a national holiday, the need to express the love and admiration of fathers was being celebrated in a variety of ways.

The first known Father’s Day occurred around 4,000 years ago in Babylonian. Young Elmusu wanted to wish his father good health and a long life. By carving this sentimental message onto a clay brick and presenting his father with a physical representation of love, many others were inspired to do the same. History does not give any clues as to what happened to Elmusu and his father, but the tradition of honoring fathers with their own day continued over the years and across the world.

The Catholic Church also began celebrating father’s on a specific day before it’s national recognition. March 19th is St. Joseph’s feast day, the day of honor for the most important father in Christian history and, therefore, the patron saint of fatherhood. The idea caught on that all fathers deserve respect for giving life, even those that did not father Jesus Christ. Many Catholics still carry on this tradition. In some countries that are predominantly Catholic, March 19th is the national Father’s Day.

Father’s Day as we know it has a much shorter history than ancient Babylon and the Catholic Church. In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in Spokane, WA. Sonora’s mother died when she was young leaving her father, Henry Jackson Smart, to be the sole caregiver. In her mind, her father deserved a day of commemoration for all the sacrifices he made; he was courageous in the face of tragedy, selfless to a fault, and more loving than two parents put together.

Sonora decided that for her father’s next birthday, she would not celebrate him just as a person, but as a giver of life. Her brilliant idea caught on fire and spread through the town. Soon Sonora became the unofficial spokesperson for the onset of a national day to honor fathers. Surprisingly, she was met with hesitation. People feared that everyone would eventually want their own day, and giving one to fathers would get the inevitable ball rolling. It took over a year, but the first Father’s Day was celebrated was held on June 19, 1910. After the initial hesitation, Father’s Day took the country by storm.

Many people continued to celebrate Father’s Day on June 19th in the consecutive years, but it wasn’t until years later that it was nationally recognized. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day in 1924 in an effort to encourage a more recognizable relationships between fathers and their children, and press upon fathers the importance of their obligations. For decades, the 3rd Sunday in June remained to be the unofficial Father’s Day across the country.

It wasn’t until 1972 that Father’s Day became a permanent day of national observance. President Richard Nixon signed this presidential proclamation to declare to the nation the importance of both parents in a child’s life. Senator Margaret Chase Smith said it best in a message to Congress. She believed America had to honor either both parents or neither. Having a day for mothers was not only unfair to fathers, but it was also a great insult to them.

Today, Father’s Day is by no means exclusive to United States citizens or religious affiliations despite its beginnings. Oftentimes, roses are worn to signify whether their father is living or deceased: red for a living father and white if he has passed on. Extravagant Father’s Day festivals are held in the US, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and India although the dates vary. In many countries, it is common to present gifts and cards to other males in one’s life besides the father, including uncles, grandparents, older brothers, and family friends. However, one thing remains stable. Neckties have always been the number one no matter what the country.