What is the history of Father's Day?

Father’s Day is a great way to recognise the special bond between fathers, grandads, step-dads and their loved ones. But how did Father's Day start?

How Father's Day started

Outside of Catholic traditions, the idea of a special day to honour fathers and father figures was not adopted until the 20th century. 

The tradition first began in America, following a mining accident in December 1907. This accident killed over 360 men, leaving approximately 1,000 children without their fathers.

A local girl called Grace Clayton had tragically lost her father earlier in the year. Following the accident, she approached her local pastor, asking to honour all of the fathers who passed away. The service was held in Fairmont on the 5th July 1908 but was not widely publicised and was overshadowed by Independence Day services and a separate local tragedy.

As a result, it was not until 1910 that the celebrations became more widespread. In Spokane, Washington, the 'Mother of Father's Day' Sonora Smart Dodd proposed the idea for a Father’s Day celebration after hearing a Mother’s Day sermon. Her own mother had died in childbirth. Believing that fathers should have a similar service, she originally suggested June 5th (her father’s birthday), but the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons and, as a result, the celebration was deferred to the 3rd Sunday in June of 1910.

From here, although mentioned by several presidential candidates (including Woodrow Wilson who campaigned in Spokane in 1916), enthusiasm for the celebrations waned until the 1930s, and all formal requests of recognition for the day were resisted due to fear of commercialisation.

As a result, although increasingly popular, it would be over 30 years until the date was officially recognised by Lyndon Johnson in 1966, when he signed a presidential proclamation. Six years later, President Nixon signed the date into law, making it a permanent holiday.

The Father’s Day movement in the United States of America inspired the tradition on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. This is a marked contrast with Mother’s Day, which has different origins in the United States and the United Kingdom, and is celebrated on different days as a result.

How to celebrate Father's Day

In the early 20th century, roses were the official symbols of Father’s Day. Red roses were worn to church to express gratitude to a living father, while white roses were worn to pay tribute to a deceased father. However, this tradition is no longer popular.

Instead, many people see Father’s Day as the perfect opportunity to make a special effort to visit their fathers, grandfathers, step dads and other important father figures - which is something we see each year at our retirement properties. It’s now also common to bring cards and gifts, with popular options for dads including ties, drinks, socks and slippers. However you celebrate, Father’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to say thank you for everything they’ve done for you.

Father’s Day Fact File 

When is Father’s Day?

 Celebrated once a year, Father’s Day in the UK always falls on the third Sunday of June.

When was the first Father’s Day?

Father’s Day was first held on 5th July 1908 in West Virginia.

When was the first Father's day in the UK?

It is thought that people first started to celebrate Father's day in the UK shortly after the war, but it was slow to become established and has only become popular in recent years.

Is Father’s Day the same day everywhere?

Father’s Day is celebrated at different times in different countries. In countries with a strong Catholic heritage, the holiday is celebrated on St Joseph’s Day, which is the 19th March.

Why do we celebrate Father’s Day?

Father’s Day celebrates the role that fathers and father figures play in shaping the lives of their loved ones. It is different to International Men’s Day, which celebrates the positive value that men bring into the world.

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