Happy Father’s Day

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In the United Kingdom, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, in keeping with the United States, where the custom originated, and many other parts of the world. This is in contrast to Mothers’ Day, which has a very different history in the U.S. and the U.K. (Happy Mother’s Day). Many countries outside of Britain celebrate Mothers’ Day in May, whereas in Britain the date varies according to the date on which Easter falls that year. Most often it falls in March.

Father’s Day is a day to honour fathers and father figures, including grandfathers and fathers-in-law. Many people make a special effort to visit their fathers or to send them a card or gifts. As for Mothers’ Day in Britain, children spend time making their own cards, and gifts tend to be the same as many dads will get for Christmas – socks, slippers, ties and various items of clothing. Sometimes mugs are bought with slogans like ‘The World’s Best Dad’ or simply ‘Dad’ written on them. Items like T-shirts, mouse mats, bags and T-shirts are sometimes offered to dads with photographs of the children printed on them. As for giving flowers… In the U.S. fathers were traditionally given the gift of white or red roses. The rose is the official flower for Father’s Day. Wearing a red rose signifies a living father, while a white one represents a deceased father. I haven’t heard of roses being given here in the U.K. but that doesn’t mean the custom isn’t observed at all.

For some dads in the U.K. Father’s Day can be a day for being taken out and treated to a pint or two down at the pub. Some families make more of things and the ‘treat’ could be a meal out somewhere special, or one of the popular ‘Father’s Day’ experiences, like driving a rally car, tank, fire engine, or even an aeroplane. Some children pay for Dad to have a golf, football or cricket lesson with a celebrity coach.

A father holding a necktie cookie on Father's Day. Author: Dean Michaud, originally posted on Flickr, terms compatible with Commons.

A father holding a necktie cookie on Father’s Day. Author: Dean Michaud, originally posted on Flickr, terms compatible with Commons.

There are two versions regarding the origins of a special day to honour fathers in the United States. Some people maintain that it was first introduced in 1910 by a woman called Sonora Smart Dodd, who was inspired by the work of Anna Jarvis, the woman who had pushed for Mother’s Day celebrations. Sonora’s father raised six children by himself after the death of their mother – which was uncommon at that time, as many widowers placed their children in the care of others or quickly married again – and Sonora felt that her father deserved recognition for what he had done. The first Father’s Day was held in June 1910, and was officially recognized as a holiday in 1972 by President Nixon.

Others in the U.S. say that Grace Golden Clayton from Fairmont, West Virginia, should be credited with the idea of Father’s Day, after she suggested a day to celebrate fatherhood in 1908, following the anguish of the Monongah mine disaster in December 1907. Officially, 362 men died, in that disaster, 250 of them fathers, leaving more than a thousand children without a dad. It was America’s worst mining ­accident. Most of the men were Italian migrants and the actual death toll is estimated at nearer 500.

Grace Golden Clayton, whose father was killed in the tragedy, suggested a service of commemoration for this lost generation to the pastor of her local Methodist chapel, and the first Father’s Day took place on July 5, 1908. But Grace’s idea did not spread outside this isolated mining settlement. It took off two years later, after Sonora Smart Dodd’s campaign.

Father’s Day again fell into disuse until the 1930s, and then slowly gained official recognition. President Richard Nixon proclaimed it a national holiday in 1972.

I have to confess that until I looked this up, I didn’t know the origins of Father’s Day in the U.S. I knew the custom started in America but, like many other people, I assumed it was either another money making ploy on behalf of the gift and card industry, or a way of keeping things equal with Mother’s Day – which is partly true. In our house, our children usually come round with presents. This year, they’ll probably start arriving later this afternoon. The usual gift is some type of malt whisky, although sometimes there will also be the odd box of chocolates. Our youngest son, who works in various places abroad, often sends some kind of plant for our garden via Interflora or suchlike. We have lots of  plants and flowers that started life in wicker baskets, and they’re doing very nicely.

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One last note or two…

In Germany, Father’s Day (Vatertag) or Men’s Day (Männertag)  is celebrated differently from other parts of the world. Groups of men go off into the woods with a wagon of beer, wines and meats. Heavy drinking is common on that day and traffic accidents tend to rise, causing police and emergency services to be on high alert. Some right-wing and feminist groups have asked for the banning of the holiday. Father’s day with a kick, I’d say!

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A Hiking Tour on Father’s Day. Author: Steffen Gebbhart at Wikimedia. Public Domain

In China, Father’s Day used to be on August 8. This was because the Chinese word for 8 is ‘ba’ and the colloquial word for father is ‘ba-ba’. It has now been moves to the third week in June to keep in line with other countries.

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About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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24 Responses to Happy Father’s Day

  1. Happy Father’s Day! Enjoy your time with your family! 🙂

  2. Yinglan says:

    What a great history lesson! I didn’t know where Father’s Day come from either nor did I know that Father’s Day in China is 8/8.

    • milliethom says:

      I found it really interesting. I’d always thought that Father’s Day had been introduced just to keep things even with Mothers’ Day – and as a money making scheme on behalf or the greeting card manufacturers. We live and learn. Thanks, Yinglan. 🙂

  3. Jessie Cross says:

    Thank you for sharing this, and I hope you enjoy this very special day with your family.

    • milliethom says:

      Hi Jessie. Thank you for reading. I’m trying to get back to normal today, and I’ve only been away for a week! We had to rush back just for Father’s Day, too. Our children had already planned to take us out for a meal, so we left Wales straight after Breakfast. 🙂

  4. Galit Balli says:

    Happy Father’s day ❤

  5. Bekki Hill says:

    Interesting. I have too always thought it was about evening things with mothers and – on my more cynical days – about selling cards etc.

    • milliethom says:

      I think a lot of/most people think that, Bekki. And I’m sure it’s partly true. But the original reasons for celebrating the day are interesting. I’d never given them a thought before.

  6. Thank you for the history and the extras. Happy Father’s Day (late). I hope you enjoyed and celebrated as well. This is one celebration that is almost a non-event in my family having lost my grandfathers (mum’s father) plus (father’s father) when I was a child. I never meeting my own father until I was 19 and not being close to him until now… I lost my stepfather in a car accident 18 years ago. Then – divorced 10 year and so my boys rarely celebrate at home except for their own things they do with their dad – if ever he was around. It wasn’t meant for me father’s day. 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      I knew that you hadn’t seen/didn’t know your own father when you were young from that great post you did a while ago about his explorations. To have also lost both grandfathers must have been very hard for you.. Then your stepfather, and your own divorce… I understand why Father’s day means nothing to you, Joycelin. Our children like to do the usual gift-bearing thing, and sometimes a meal out. We’d only just got back from Wales at lunchtime this year, But it was nice to see them all. Chris, our youngest wasn’t here, as usual. We can’t keep track of where he gets to in the world. Last time we heard from him he was in Montreal, but he’s quite likely to be in Manila again by now. ❤

      • Oh that would have been a wonderful celebration. Your Chris sounds like how my Chris will turn out – very adventurous. (ps – was my grandpa the explorer, my father’s father).

      • milliethom says:

        Oh yes, it was your Grandfather! I suppose it was rather a long time ago to have been your dad. (Dimbo, that’s me!) I just remembered you didn’t know who your dad was when you were young, so I got a bit muddled there.
        Our Chris just can’t stay put. It must be something to do with the name. lol You know… St. Christopher, the patron saint of travellers! 😀

      • Yes! That’s why I named him Chris. I was pregnant and travelled to most of the PNG provinces and then across Asia and spent three months in Korea before I came to Brisbane to have him.

      • milliethom says:

        Wow, thanks for telling me that. No wonder he likes travelling now! You’ve certainly done your own share of travelling, Joycelin. Wanderlust must run in your family (thinking about your grandpa here, too.) You seem well settled in Brisbane now (or should I say, ‘for now’?

      • milliethom says:

        I’ve said that all my life. We’ve move about a lot, but always within the UK. Our family is here, so I know we’ll stay put – much as I’d love to live somewhere reliabl;y warm and sunny. I really liked Brisbane, but it’s such a long way from our tribe. I know it’s different for you, as many of your family are still in PNG. I imagine you get homesick sometimes, 🙂

      • I do – quite often Millie. I miss home a lot. The birds are good company and they make very musical conversations, but I miss speaking my own languages. I am going home soon. 🙂

      • milliethom says:

        Do you mean for good, or just a visit to family? I do feel for you, Joycelin. I can tell from your posts how much you love your homeland. Your heart is still there. I’d be exactly the same if I left England for long. ‘There’s no place like home’ is so true.

      • Thank you Millie – just for a visit. 🙂

  7. Happy Father’s Day (belated) and thanks for such a detailed article about it Millie!
    I had no idea that there was so much history involved with this day.
    Great post 🙂 I wish I would have read it earlier, I had nothing for the so so I would have reblogged this only. I guess, I’ll do it next year… 🙂
    Have a great day dear!

    PS: I saw your book on NetGalley the other day. If you want me to put up the TRB review there then let me know.

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you for that lovely comment, Heena. I didn’t know about the origins of Father’s Day, either, until I looked it up. I suppose that’s because it was started in the US and most British people just assume it was introduced to
      even things out with Mothers’ Day. 😀
      I would be delighted if you put the review up on Net Galley, if you have the time. Thank you for the kind gesture.

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