The origins of Father’s Day – 16th June

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There is a school of thought that believes Father’s Day is a relatively recent concept, conceived to compliment the already popular Mother’s Day and celebrate the paternal side of parenting.

It may, therefore, surprise you to know that scholars believe the earliest Father’s Day message came from a young boy called Elmesu, who lived 4000 years ago in Babylon (modern day Iraq), and carved a message on a card, out of clay, wishing his Babylonian father good health and a long life.

Father’s Day remained an annual appreciation in several countries all over the world but only became popular in Western culture during the early twentieth century. Although there are numerous potential ‘founders’ of Father’s Day in Western society, one persons efforts stand out above all others.

Born in Arkansas, but raised just outside of Spokane, Washinton, Sonna Smart Dood had seen the success obtained by Anna Jarvis, promoting Mother’s Day in the US, and took it on herself to make sure fathers were honoured throughout the nation. Dodd’s own father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran and a single parent who reared his six children after his wife died in child birth. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honouring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors hadn’t enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

The first Father’s Day celebration was in Spokane, Washington on June 19, 1910 and although it didn’t have much success initially it was on her return from College in the early 1930′s that Dodd started to raise awareness of the day on a national level.

Having gained the necessary support from trade groups that may benefi t from the celebration (tie manufacturers, tobacconists etc..) and from 1938, the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion, Father’s Day celebrations became more widespread.

Despite her best efforts, Fathers Day still hadn’t been embraced by the American public. Many took a cynical view that, like Mother’s Day, it was a synthetic celebration solely for the purposes of commercial industries to make more money. Despite presidential backing, it wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honouring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

It was soon after that Father’s Day was adopted by the UK, although not a national holiday, many of us take the opportunity to treat our ‘Dad’s’ in the form of gifts, meals or just a relaxing day.

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