Origins of Father’s Day

We just barely passed Father’s Day on the calendar. Indeed, every year, on the third Sunday in June, we celebrate our fathers and what they do for us. Interestingly, though, Father’s Day lagged behind Mother’s Day in terms of being designated a national holiday and being widely celebrated.

Some of that has to do with preferences by fathers themselves.

Father’s Day Gets Off to a Slow Start

Mother’s Day type celebrations began during the 1860s, although Mother’s Day wasn’t seen as a commercial holiday until 1908, and Woodrow Wilson didn’t make it nationally “official” until 1914. What many people don’t realize, though, is that efforts to recognize fathers were underway during the same time. Washington State instituted a statewide Father’s Day in 1910, and even President Wilson honored the day in 1916, and encouragement for states to honor fathers were offered by Calvin Coolidge in 1924. But no national holiday was instituted.

Indeed, some blame fathers themselves for the slow start to Father’s Day. Many men saw Father’s Day as more of a commercial effort — as well as a sentimental effort they derided. Sentimentalism toward mothers made sense in the context of the times, but there are assertions that many men were loathe to see the same sentimentally applied to them. And, with many men the sole breadwinners during the early 20th Century, some historians and cultural trend watchers speculate that many men thought it silly to receive gifts that their own money had bought.

There was an effort to try and get rid of both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day just prior to the Great Depression. The movement focused on a Parents’ Day that would honor both equally, and at the same time. However, once the Depression hit retailers redoubled their efforts to keep the holidays separate so that they could make more money. World War II added to the efforts to recognize Father’s Day, since the argument was that honoring the troops — many of whom were fathers — would boost morale and the war effort.

Father’s Day Momentum Builds

Father’s Day slowly gained steam and President Nixon signed the proclamation that made Father’s Day a national holiday in 1972. Today, there is a push emphasize Father’s Day as much as Mother’s Day. There is a recognition that the father’s role in the home has changed over the last few decades. Indeed, father’s are increasingly a part of their children’s life, and the number of stay at home dads is on the rise. Additionally, men are more open to these types of sentimental holidays and celebrations. Some even feel left out when their wives are lavished with attention on Mother’s Day, but they get little support on Father’s Day.

However, there is still a gap between Mother’s Day spending and Father’s Day spending. Estimates put Mother’s Day spending at $18.6 billion, while Father’s Day spending is at around $13 billion. While the gap is closing, it’s still there. And, as fathers continue to become more visible in their children’s lives, there is the possibility that spending will even out in time.

What do you think of these holidays? Are they just commercial gimmicks? Or do you take the time to express appreciation to your parents on these days?

One Response to Origins of Father’s Day

  1. We celebrated Fathers’ Day at my mother’s house last Sunday. Bought my dad a gallon of his favorite ice cream as a Fathers’ Day gift.

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