The Origins of Father’s Day

origins-of-fathers-day

Father’s Day is the day, a 24-hour slot in the good old 365, when we are for a moment required to pause whatever it is that we are doing and think of our fathers. Along with our mothers, they played a somewhat key role in bringing us all to life. So, after a couple of centuries of stomping around and huffing and puffing and just generally pouting because of the fact that people celebrated Mother’s Day and not Father’s Day, they proposed that it become a holiday of its own.

They deserved it too, they said, crossing their arms across their chests and nodding in unison.

So they got it.

Mother’s Day (not the official kind – that only appeared in 1908) dates back to the ancient Romans and Greeks. They too loved their mothers. The Romans and the Greeks worshipped their mother-goddesses, Cybele and Rhea (the daughter of Gaia, the earth goddess).

Naturally, that did not sit all that well with the fathers, whose Big Day didn’t come up until the Middle Ages. But, you know, how well can you celebrate a holiday amidst all the crusades, the chaos, witch-hunting, world-discovering, scientific breakthroughs, etc.? It wasn’t easy. They fought and fought for it; the Black Plague at their doors, the fathers would gather in derelict cellars and catacombs to bake cakes and light a couple of candles, sing a song or two, perhaps, and chant a poem “Father, father, be-oh-me, our importance you don’t see.” Okay, that last part is not true, at all, but it is a known fact that it took Father’s Day a long time to gain traction – much longer than Mother’s Day. Why? The modern vendors claim it is the fact that fatherhood is not as romantic as motherhood, that they are not sellable, that their stories aren’t emotionally enticing enough.

Fathers throughout the world got theirs, finally, at the beginning of the 20th century.

The first modern Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908. Anna Jarvis, daughter of a well-known activist Ann Reeves Jarvis, worked hard to make Mother’s Day a national holiday. Taking Jarvis as inspiration, the department store owned by John Wanamaker (first one in Philadelphia, US) soon organized the very first service dedicated to mothers. Later on, in 1909, 45 different states in the United States celebrated Mother’s Day, and in 1914, it officially became a national holiday.

It took Father’s Day 55 years to catch up, when it was finally made a national holiday in 1966 by the US president at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson. It became a federal holiday in 1977, amidst Nixon’s presidential re-election campaign.

In 1909, in Spokane, Washington, Sonora Smart Dodd (a woman, can you imagine this back then?) tried to establish a male equivalent of Mother’s Day in the United States. Ultimately, she succeeded. She started by going around visiting local shopkeepers, churches and government officials in order to promote her idea. The State of Washington celebrated the first Father’s Day on US soil (as well as international) on June 19, 1910.

Father’s Day prevailed.

The dads were ecstatic.

The spirit of the holiday is as strong as ever, and it urges each and every one of us to take some time out of our days and spend it with our fathers. Presents are never mandatory. They are a nice touch, a simple but powerful gesture that shows your father you went out of your way to buy them something – but they are never mandatory.

Or, if we can’t spend Father’s Day with our fathers, we can send a positive thought their way. We love you, dads, for everything you’ve done. If some of them hadn’t been the ideal father figures, we still love you. You are the reason we are here, why we got to experience life – at its best and at its worst. Thank you.

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