Fathers’ Day: 100 years of history and why it still matters
Fathers’ Day is celebrated by millions of people around the world each year. Nothing can deter us from the honouring and thanking our dad, not even the coronavirus pandemic. While Fathers’ Day will undoubtedly look different for many Australians this year because of social distancing rules and lockdowns, we will still indulge our fathers by showering them with expressions of love and of course, gifts.
While it is crucial we pay homage to our fathers for their unconditional love and the countless sacrifices they made for us; this did not always happen. You may ask, ‘When did Father’s Day start? And how?’ With a long and controversial history, we look at its path and how it came to be the festive occasion we know today.
The Origin of Fathers’ Day
Mothers’ Day was first to come about, with some people postulating it dates back to the 1860s. The American Government declared it as a national holiday in 1914. This celebration paved the way for Fathers’ Day. Its humble origin was a sermon in a church in West Virginia in 1908, commemorating 362 men who lost their lives to a coalmining explosion. This occasion became the first American event to honour fathers, but the ceremony began and ended in the four walls of the small church.
After a year, however, a young woman named Sonora Smart Dodd was determined to establish Fathers’ Day as a national holiday. Raised by a single father because of her mother’s early death, Dodd strongly believed we should celebrate fathers as much as mothers. So she started lobbying the American Government. Her advocacy bore fruit when Fathers’ Day was first celebrated in Washington on 19 June 1910.
Individual American states gradually adopted the celebration, and over time, President Richard Nixon declared Fathers’ Day as a national holiday in 1972—it quickly became an overnight sensation, prompting other countries to follow suit.
Fathers’ Day Celebrations in Australia
Today, Australia is no different. Families all over the country recognise the significance of honouring fathers, but the celebration is on a different date to the rest of the world. Instead of celebrating in June in line with most other countries, Australians celebrate Fathers’ Day on the first Sunday of September.
Fathers’ Day in Australia marks the end of winter’s hibernation and the start of festivities reaching to Christmas and beyond. By celebrating Fathers’ Day in September at the first sign of warmer spring weather, families can get outdoors and enjoy the types of activities many dads love like barbeques, fishing and swimming.
Why It Still Matters
Although the lead-up to the modern celebration of Fathers’ Day involves an avalanche of marketing that offends some people, the spirit of honouring and thanking dads is what matters most. Australian families continue to celebrate with love and zeal despite the commercialisation accompanying Fathers’ Day.
The goal remains to enable fathers and father figures to receive the affection and appreciation they deserve. Millions of Australian families indulge their dad, spending glorious days revelling in the sunshine at parks and beaches or hosting feasts at home or in cafes and restaurants. Children also post heartfelt messages on social media about their dads on Fathers’ Day, letting the world know they have the best father in the world! And of course, we pamper our dads with gifts of all shapes and sizes including socks, ties and undies—some of them with a personal moniker!
‘Why,’ you might ask? The answer is simple—love and appreciation. No amount of marketing can destroy the spirit of Fathers’ Day. As a holiday that began out of intense love for her father, Dodds reminds us of the pivotal role of fathers in our lives. It is only right to continue celebrating dads on their special day and throughout the year.
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