Ah the long-awaited month of June. Summer is just around the corner and things are gearing up for a busy season of activity, holidays and taking it easy – as much as that is possible. It’s also the month that we pay homage to fathers, with Father’s Day on June 16.
There’s always plenty of hub-bub about Mother’s Day and deservedly so. Father’s Day tends to be a more subdued affair in our society – an unfortunate thing considering the influence fathers can have and the much more hands-on approach to parenting many dads take these days.
Father’s Day was inaugurated in the United States in the early 1900s to complement Mother’s Day in celebrating fatherhood and male parenting.
According to Wikipedia, after the success obtained by Anna Jarvis with the promotion of Mother’s Day, some wanted to create similar holidays for other family members, and Father’s Day was the choice most likely to succeed.
Father’s Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910.
Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there.
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 did not have enough time to prepare their sermons and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.
It was not a roaring success to begin with. In fact, Dodds stopped promoting the occasion in the 1920s because she was busy studying art in Chicago. But the following decade saw her return to Spokane and take up the cause once again.
At last, it began to gather momentum and awareness spiked to a national level. But it still wasn’t an ‘official’ day.
In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honouring mothers, thus “(singling) out just one of our two parents.” Finally, in 1966, 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.
On an global level, International Men’s Day is also marked in many countries on Nov. 19 for men who aren’t fathers.
As with any holiday singling out a family member, it’s not always a happy occasion. We all know family horror stories of absentee or even abusive parents. But for those of us blessed with responsible, caring and selfless parents, let’s take the time to let them know – our fathers in particular this week – that they are special people and we are grateful.
After all, anyone can be a biological father. But not everyone can be a ‘Dad’.