Handwritten text saying "Happy Father's Day" with a watercolor blue background.
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Celebrating dads

“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” —Anne Geddes

Although Father’s Day was officially designated a U.S. holiday by President Richard Nixon in 1972, historians trace the roots of the holiday to 1910 when it began as a religious holiday. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd from Spokane, Washington, after hearing a sermon at her church about Mother’s Day, thought fathers should also be honored. Dodd’s father was a Civil War veteran who raised his six children after their mother died during childbirth. The religious leaders in the area were said to have supported Dodd’s idea; and, on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day was celebrated. Fourteen years later, President Calvin Coolidge gave his support, followed by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s proclamation in 1966.

Prior to the 1920 celebration, History.com said a church in West Virginia sponsored an event honoring fathers during their Sunday worship service in memory of 32 men who died in explosions at a Fairmont Coal Co. mine in Monongah. It was considered a one-time event that did not influence the initiation of Father’s Day as it is known today.

Catholics in Europe supposedly celebrated Father’s Day on March 19 when honoring St. Joseph, husband of Mary and earth father of Jesus, beginning in the Middle Ages. According to Mapsoftheworld.com, Portuguese and Spanish explorers brought the holiday to Latin America.

A holiday honoring fathers was not without controversy. An unnamed historian has been quoted as saying men “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products — often paid for by the father himself.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, a pro-Parents’ Day group formed in an effort to derail separate holidays for mom and dad and combine them into one. It did not take hold. According to History.com, stated retailers that were struggling to make ends meet during the Great Depression ramped up the promotion of the holiday as a gift-giving event.

Enter World War II and an additional push to honor Father’s Day as a way of supporting men at war and the war effort in general.

Father’s Day is celebrated in 111 countries around the world, according to finder.com, the majority being on the third Sunday in June. Some celebrate during the month of June on other days. Other countries around the world celebrate in different months, such as Australia on the first Sunday in September, Brazil on the second Sunday in August, Sweden on the second Sunday in November and Thailand on the fifth of December. Some countries in Europe continue to celebrate on March 19, St. Joseph’s Day. According to Italiantribune.com, the Festa del Pappa is celebrated without regard to religion or background. “In Florence and Rome, this festivity is marked with several days of live music and dancing; and, of course, food and drink.” Similar to the U.S., children give cards and gifts to their fathers.

If one Googles ideas for Father’s Day gifts, there are hundreds of possibilities ranging anywhere from spending time together to a steak dinner to barbecue tools to sporting goods to cashmere socks to luxury sports cars. If any of the 66.3 million fathers in the U.S. are concerned about enduring yet another pricey, luxurious gift, the U.S. Census Bureau reports the necktie continues to be the most popular Father’s Day gift in the clothing category.

Father’s Day Fun Facts:

  • Father’s Day is the fifth-largest card-sending occasion in America, with almost 100 million Father’s Day cards sent each year at a cost of $780 million. (Aldercox.com)
  • According to National Geographic, Father’s Day costs less than Mother’s Day, with individual consumers spending $94.54 and $138.36, respectively.
  • There were two million single fathers (without a spouse or partner present) in 2022, living with their children under age 18; there are an estimated 239,000 stay-at-home dads. The share of men taking leave has increased over time: 65.9% took leave (with first births from 2016-2020) while 14% took leave (with first births in 1980 or earlier). (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • The official flower of Father’s Day is a red rose to honor a living father and a white rose to honor a decreased father. (Suitsme.com)
  • A group of fathers in Italy lit 3,128 barbecue grills simultaneously, earning a place in the Guinness World Record. (Alex Smart Book)
  • Seahorses are the only animal species whose fathers give birth. The mother lays her eggs in the father’s pouch where he carries the developing eggs until birth.


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