Father’s Day 2018: how did it all begin?

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On 17th June, the nation will dedicate a day to members of the family who we consider to be father figures. For many countries, Father’s Day traditionally falls on the third Sunday in June. Unlike Mother’s Day, this event is celebrated by the UK and the USA on the same day.

Whilst France, Greece and Saudi Arabia also celebrate Father’s Day in June, other countries like Fiji, Papa New Guinea, and Australia all celebrate in September.  This is thought to be because, in the Northern Hemisphere, spring is March to June. The reverse is true for countries in the Southern Hemisphere, where spring falls from September to December.

It all began over 100 years ago…

The history of Father’s Day can be traced back to Washington and a lady called Sonora Smart Dodd. After hearing a Mother’s Day sermon at another church in 1909, Dodd called upon her local pastor to say that a similar day should be held to honour fathers. Dodd was the daughter of an American Civil War veteran who single-handedly raised 6 children.

Dodd initially suggested that the day be celebrated on 5th June 1910, which was the anniversary of her father’s death. However, this did not leave much time for the pastors to prepare their sermons. Therefore, it was decided that the celebration would be postponed until the third Sunday in June.

On the day, Dodd selflessly delivered Father’s Day gifts to those who were too ill to leave their homes.

In the 1920s, Dodd went to study at the Art Institute of Chicago and stopped promoting awareness of the celebration. Without her efforts, the familiarity of Father’s Day faded somewhat. In the 1930s, Dodd returned to her hometown of Spokane, Washington, and took up the reins for the cause once more. This time, she began raising awareness of Father’s Day at a national level.

Initially, there was some resistance to recognising Father’s Day. Many Americans thought it was another attempt by retailers to copy the commercial success of Mother’s Day. Even the papers mocked Dodd’s idea.

Making the day an official national holiday

In 1966, President Johnson issued a statement honouring fathers, which supported the idea that the third Sunday in June would be Father’s Day. It was President Nixon who, in 1972, made the day a permanent national holiday in the USA. He said it was “…an occasion for the renewal of the love and gratitude we bear our fathers.”

There are, however, alternative theories as to how the day came about. Some people believe Father’s Day to have roots in paganism. Many Pagans believe that the sun was the father of the universe and, because the summer solstice (longest day) takes place on a similar date to Father’s Day, there are those who believe that this was actually the original link.

Traditions on Father’s Day

On the day, people traditionally post or hand-deliver Father’s Day cards. Many people try to visit their fathers in person and gather the whole family for a meal. Some dads are lucky enough to receive breakfast in bed or a home-cooked Sunday roast dinner, as well as gifts. But it’s not just fathers who are honoured on this day. Those who are considered to hold a fatherly role in the family, such as grandfathers or stepfathers, are similarly cherished and celebrated.

Father’s Day craft activity

You will need:

  • Black Sharpie/felt tip pen
  • Foam paintbrush
  • 2 different colours of paint
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Hole punch
  • String/ribbon
  • A coloured paper plate
    1. With your ruler and black pen, draw a tie-shaped outline on the paper plate.
    2. Let children choose a colour of paint. Using the foam part of the paintbrush, help children to paint angled stripes onto the tie. Leave to dry. It doesn’t matter if they paint outside of the lines – we will be cutting this out later on!
    3. Now, with the second colour paint, help children to use the end of their foam paintbrush or their fingertip to print a few polka dots across the tie. After they have done this, leave the tie to dry once more.
    4. Once the paint is fully dry, cut around the tie shape.
    5. Use the hole punch to make two holes at the top of the tie and weave a ribbon or string through the holes.
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