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The Origins of Father’s Day

In the past we've talked about the importance of being a good father (and even of the importance of being an uncle) and given some gift ideas.  This year we wanted to tell you how the holiday came about in the first place, and why we think celebrating fatherhood is worthy of a national holiday, perhaps more than ever.

A Daughter's Desire

In the early 1900s Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children being raised by a single father, a Civil War veteran whose wife had passed away, was listening to a Mother's Day sermon.  Mother's Day was also begun by a devoted daughter, Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honor her mother.  While Mother's Day caught on early as a boon for retailers, Sonora thought it was important to commemorate her father, who had been the only parent she had really known.

Originally she had wanted the day to be June 5th, her father's birthday, but pastors who had just finished writing Mother's Day sermons for the second Sunday in May wanted a bit more time and space for Father's Day, and hence in America it became established as the third Sunday in June.

Traction Took Time

Unlike Mother's Day, which became a dream for florists and in time became the busiest day of the year for restaurants, Father's Day didn't catch on right away.  Men were often the sole providers in their family and weren't keen to spend money to celebrate themselves.  Things started to change in the Depression during hard times and families found ways to get things for dad - a pair of socks or a new tie - which he needed but wouldn't get for himself, putting his family first.  World War II definitively changed the national feeling about Father's Day, as the War Department promoted the holiday as a way to honor the troops and support the war effort.

Presidents like Calvin Coolidge and Woodrow Wilson personally celebrated Father's Day, but it wasn't until 1972 that it became established as a national holiday in America, and countries like France, Ireland, the UK, Singapore, the Philippines, and many others followed the lead of "third Sunday in June" for their respective Father's Days.  In Catholic countries like Portugal, Italy, Bolivia, and Honduras, Father's Day is traditionally celebrated on March 19th, which is the Feast of St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.  There are records that show this observance started as early as 1508!

The Gift of Appreciation

In the US alone $17B is spent each year on Father's Day, at an average of $150/gift.  While we obviously support the idea of giving your dad a gift (a TGP gift card, for example) we also understand that this year has been challenging for many people.  The underappreciated gift of time might be one of the most valuable gifts you could give this year, connecting you in a line to how the holiday in the US was started: from an appreciative child.  Sonora would go on to campaign to establish Father's Day for six decades; it was her lifelong love letter to her dad.  We know fathers aren't perfect, but it's a tough job, and this is a day we can take to acknowledge and appreciate that.

Do you have any Father's Day traditions?  Share them in the comments below.

Ben Davis

About Ben Davis

A serial entrepreneur, Ben Davis is founder of The Gents Place and a leading investor in gentlemen's refinement and confidence.

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