Many believe that Fathers’ Day is a modern festival, but in fact there has been a celebration honouring fathers in Europe on 19 March (St Joseph’s Day) since as far back as 1508. The connection here is that St Joseph was the father of Jesus in The Bible.
There has been some controversy about the festival. In 1916, The US Congress fought against calls by President Woodrow Wilson to make the holiday official, fearing it would become “too commercial”. It was only made a permanent national holiday in the US 56 years later, when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. In addition, the girl who thought of the idea was the daughter of a single-parent father of six children: very unusual at the time.
In modern times dates for Fathers’ Day vary around the world, but in the UK it is always on the third Sunday of June. In Australia, this is reversed and the celebration is on the first Sunday in September. This year in the UK, it’s Sunday 21 June: yes, this Sunday, so make sure you phone dad!
The Germans seem to have the right idea. In Germany, Vatertag (Fathers’ Day) or Herrentag (Gentlemen’s Day) is celebrated with groups of men hiking in the countryside pulling carts filled with beer or wine and traditional food, like a travelling picnic. In Mexico, meanwhile, fathers take part in a 21km race called Carrera Dia Del Padre 21 Bosque de Tlalpan, which is open to all men except the very young.
Here are some more curious Dad Facts which you may not know:
- Fathers’ Day is the fourth-largest card-sending occasion in the world, with over 72 million cards sold every year.
- According to research, only around half of all Fathers’ Day cards are bought for fathers, with 20% purchased for husbands.
- The modern Fathers’ Day was created by Sonora Smart-Dodd of Spokane, Washington in 1910, after she visited a Mother’s Day church service with her father and felt sorry that he was missing a celebration.
- The drinking fountain was invented by Halsey Taylor in 1912 as a tribute to his father, who died of typhoid fever after drinking unclean water.
- In Thailand, Fathers’ Day is celebrated on 5 December, the birthday of King Bhumibol, who died in 2016 but was known as The Father Of The Nation. Celebrations there include fireworks, speeches and the donation of blood!
- Dick Hoyt has pushed his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair, through hundreds of marathons and triathlons to raise money for various charities. Rick, who can’t speak, sent a message to his father after their first race in high school which read: “Dad, when we were running, I felt like I wasn’t disabled any more.”
- A famous quote on fathers comes from the American author Mark Twain, who said: “When I was fourteen, my father was so stupid that I couldn’t stand to be around him. Seven years later, by the age of twenty-one, I was amazed by how much he had learned.”