Today, June 20th 2011 is Father’s Day here in the United States. I say here because the day is celebrated on different dates around the globe. While in some countries it is a proper holiday with meaning pertinent to that country’s history, in other countries it is not even recognized.
How this holiday got started has several different sources. One source claims that it was originally a pagan holiday honoring the father-in-the-sky that thanked him for giving us, the children-on-earth the gifts of sun and rain. Animal sacrifices were made with colorful ribbons around their necks and over time transitioned (through the intervention of the church) to a gift of garlands given from sons to fathers. This could explain the tradition we have here of giving a father a tie on Father’s Day.
However for many years Father’s Day was not even known here. In 1908 Dr. Robert Webb and Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton organized a service to celebrate the lives of 210 fathers who had been lost in the Monogah Mining Disaster on December 6th 1907. This was a one-time celebration and the state of West Virginia did not even register the holiday at the time. Today Fairmont West Virginia is officially known as the home of the first Father’s Day service.
Independently Sonora Dodd in Spokane Washington created her own celebration of Father’s Day. Influenced by the recent enactment of Mother’s Day Ms. Dodd wanted to do something to honor her father who had single-handedly raised his six children after his wife died in childbirth.
The first bill to try and give Father’s Day recognition was introduced in Congress in 1913. It failed. In 1916 President Wilson was in Spokane and he wanted to make it official. Fearing commercialization Congress refused. (OMG – You mean for once – and maybe the only time – Congress was right?)
In 1924 President Coolidge recommended it be observed but would not issue a national proclamation and a National Father’s Day Committee was formed in New York City to explore the idea. It would be another 48 years before the holiday became official.
In 1957 Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine presented a proposal that accused Congress of ignoring fathers while honoring mothers and this led to President Lyndon Johnson issuing the first national proclamation of Father’s Day in 1966. Six years later in 1972 President Richard Nixon signed a bill making Father’s Day a national holiday.
So to all those fathers and father figures out there – Happy Father’s Day!