Father’s Day a national holiday in the United States that honors fatherhood and was first celebrated on June 19th, 1910. While that may have been a straightforward intro to a holiday for our blog, the fact is that Father’s Day also had a quite simple and uneventful start when compared to most holidays out there.
In Europe, Saint Joseph’s Day was started in the Catholic faith as a feast day to celebrate fatherhood. This feast day was usually celebrated on March 19th and started in the very early 1500s (some believe it may have been the late 1400s) and was eventually brought to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese settlers. This holiday never truly began a world holiday and while it is celebrated commonly in Europe, in America it was not a well-recognized event.
In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd, who was raised by only her father along with multiple bothers, attended a Mother’s Day event at her church and pushed to make a holiday for fathers as Saint Joseph’s Day was mostly unknown in America. She ended up suggesting this idea to the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and requested a worldwide Father’s Day to be celebrated on her father’s birthday of June 5th. The Spokane Ministerial Alliance ended up supporting the idea but made the holiday fall on the third Sunday of June instead.
June 19, 1910 was the first Father’s Day celebration and was hosted in Spokane, Washington thanks to Sonora’s efforts. However, the holiday struggled to gain ground and ended up fading in the 1920s, even after President Woodrow Wilson praised the Spokane services in 1916 via a telegram.
Oddly enough, Father’s Day not only almost never became a holiday but also nearly ended Mother’s Day as a separate holiday as well during its early years. In the 20s and 30s, men were not very receptive of the day or willing to receive gifts for being a father and this created a movement to merge Mother’s Day and Father’s Day into Parent’s Day. The Great Depression and its rampant effects on the commercialization of these holidays would end up defeating the effort to merge them together.
World War II would bring attention back to the need of a national holiday for fathers and the 1960s would bring Father’s Day back into the national spotlight as in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day. In 1972, President Richard Nixon would establish the holiday as a permanent national observance as we know it today.