Dad, It's Your Special Day!
Dad, It's Your Special Day!
by William L. Bulla
We celebrated Mother's Day about a month ago and now it's Dad's turn to have his special day. Mother's Day has been a national holiday for almost a century, while Father's Day was not made an official holiday until 1966.
Moses says in the Fifth Commandment: "Honor your father and your mother..." If Dad came first then, what took us so long to get our act together?
Mother's Day was originally suggested in 1872, by Julia Ward Howe, author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, but she envisioned it as a day for women to protest against war. Then in 1908, Anna M. Jarvis began to campaign from Philadelphia to establish a nationwide Mother's Day.
There is some debate over where and when the first Father's Day celebration actually took place. Some people say it was first held in West Virginia at a church service in 1908. Most records claim it was started in the state of Washington in1910. That idea for Father's Day was conceived by Sonoro Louise Smart Dodd in 1909 while listening to a sermon endorsing the concept of Mother's Day. Mrs. Dodd's father, William Smart, had raised her and her five siblings after his wife's death. She approached the Spokane City government to get an official holiday established. She had wanted it on June 5, 1910, which was the first Sunday in the month, and her father's birthday. The local government did not approve it in time to make the first Sunday the designated holiday, but did make it the third Sunday of the month.
Newspapers across the country carried stories of the Father's Day observance in Spokane. Interest in Father's Day increased and local observances began to increase. The holiday was quickly adopted across the country by many towns, as a special service in church, and the day became a solemn and respectful occasion. Mrs. Dodd created the tradition of having women were red roses to honor their living fathers and white roses to honor fathers that were deceased.
Over the years, many people continued to spread the idea that a special day be set aside to honor fathers. One such person was Harry C. Meek, president of a Lions Club in Chicago. Mr. Meek was a well-known advocate of Father's Day, and frequently gave speeches around the United States encouraging people to adopt the idea. Because of his continued devotion to establish a national Father's Day, the Lions Clubs of America presented Mr. Meek with a gold watch in 1920. On the watch was the inscription, "Originator of Father's Day."
If the idea was so popular, why did it take so long to get it adopted? Many famous people supported Father's Day and tried to secure official recognition for the holiday. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson and his family personally observed Father's Day. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge actively supported the celebration of Father's Day by signing a Father's Day resolution to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations." He recommended "the widespread observance" of Father's Day, but never made it an official holiday, as President Wilson had done with Mother's Day. Finally, President Lyndon Johnson issued a presidential proclamation in 1966, declaring the third Sunday in June be recognized as Father' Day. Then it took another six years before President Richard Nixon established Father's Day as a permanent holiday.
Father's Day, as celebrated today, is a far cry from what Mrs. Dodd envisioned back in 1909. While the day still honors Dad, it has expanded beyond that. Children hunger for masculine role models whom they can trust and admire. For them, Father's Day has expanded to celebrate not just fathers, but to include the neighbors, mentors, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and all of the important men in their lives. It has also become a day when families celebrate with picnics, barbecues, and other functions. Many communities or neighborhoods organize special events, such as ball games, parades, or other activities.
In spite of what some people may think, Father's Day was not invented by the greeting card industry to increase revenue. It is however, the fifty-largest card-sending occasion in America, with over 85 million greeting cards exchanged. Neckties have long been one of the most popular Father's Day gifts. Other retailers encourage the giving of stereotypically male gifts like hardware and tools.
America should be applauded for pioneering a day for families to recognize fathers. Today, over most of the world, Father's Day exists to honor and commemorate fathers or forefathers. In Christian/Catholic tradition, Father's Day is celebrated on St. Joseph's Day, which is on March 19. Other cultures have different days to celebrate their fathers. Actually, in many traditionally Christian/Catholic countries a more 'secular/non-religious' Father's Day is also celebrated. But a day to express gratitude and appreciation for Dad's hard work with a special day in his honor seems to be universal.
Dad, it's your special day! Relax! Enjoy!