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Origin of Fatherís Day

Children have always celebrated their fatherís since the beginning of time.  Like the origins of Motherís Day, ancient civilizations celebrated their gods, including a celebration for the king of their gods, Zeus.  The holiday was called the Festival of Zeus (and usually marked the time of the ancient Olympic competitions).  Since the beginning of Early Catholicism, the celebration of the ďfatherĒ of Jesus was also celebrated on St. Josephís Day (which coincidentally falls out around Fatherís Day, on June 19th).  Fatherís Day celebration as we know it today was created in the early part of the 19th Century.  Its origins come from three different people, Harry Meek, Dr. Robert Webb and Mrs. John Bruce Dodd.

  • Dr. Robert Webb

    • Dr. Robert Webb conducted the first Fatherís Day service in 1908 in Fairmount West Virginia (Central Church of Fairmont).

  • Mrs. John Bruce Dodd

    • Three thousand miles away, Sonora Amart Dodd (Mrs. John Bruce Dodd) promoted the Fatherís Day concept in Spokane Washington. She came up with this concept to commemorate her father, William Jackson Smart, a widower and Civil War Veteran, who raised six children by himself (her mother died in childbirth).  The idea came to her while listening to a Motherís Day sermon in 1909.  She promoted the Fatherís Day idea with much vigor.  With the help of the Spokane Ministerial Association, the Spokane YMCA and other organizations and politicians, Spokane became the first city to ďofficiallyĒ celebrate a Fatherís Day, when it did so on June 19th, 1910 (note: they were originally going to celebrate it on June 5th, the date of her fatherís birthday, but organizers did not have the time to get it together until the 19th).

  • Harry Meek

    • Harry Meek has been credited by some as the creator of Fatherís Day and in his position as President of the Chicago Uptown Lionís Club conducted Fatherís Day events.  The Lionís Club chose the third Sunday of June to celebrate the holiday because it was close to the birthday of Harry Meek.  However, the first celebration was not conducted until five years later.

 Fathers Day 2005

National Support of Fatherís Day

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge gave support to establish a national day to honor fathers. He wanted a day that ďwould establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.ď This lead to the creation of a National Fatherís Day Committee which met for the first time two years later in New York City.


In 1956, Fatherís Day is recognized by a Joint Resolution of Congress.


In 1966, the first presidential proclamation establishing a national Fatherís Day was made in 1966  by President Lyndon Johnson.  It proclaimed the third Sunday of June to be Fatherís Day.


In 1972, Fatherís Day became ďofficiallyĒ recognized as a holiday when President Richard Nixon signed a law that named the third Sunday in June as Fatherís Day.


Dates for Fatherís Day

2005: Sun, June 19
2006: Sun, June 18
2007: Sun, June 17


Fatherís Day Traditions and Celebrations

One custom arising from the early celebrations was the wearing of flowers on Fatherís Day.  White flowers honored a living father and red flowers for a deceased father. Today, wearing of flowers is not as prevalent Ė but many people still do.

Neck ties have become a favorite gift for Fatherís Day. The sales of neckties rise to over 800 million during the time of the holiday.

Fatherís Day cards are usually given on Fatherís Day.  An interesting fact is that over 90% of the cards are bought by women and most are usually humorous.


International Observation of Fatherís Day

The United States is one of the only countries to officially recognize a national holiday for fathers.  However, other countries do celebrate fathers officially and unofficially.

Celebratory Dates Around the World

  • March

    • March 19: Portugal, Spain

  • May/June

    • May 8th: Korea (called Parentís Day)

    • Ascension Day (40 Days after Easter): Germany

  • June

    • June 5th: Denmark

    • June 20th: Bulgaria

    • First Sunday in June: Lithuania

    • Second Sunday in June: Austria, Belgium

    • Third Sunday in June: Argentina, Canada, Chile, France, Japan, Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, Malta

  • August

    • August 8th: Taiwan

    • Second Sunday in August: Brazil

  • September

    • First Sunday in September: Australia, New Zealand

  • November

    • Second Sunday in November: Finland, Scandinavia

  • December

    • December 5th: Thailand

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Last modified: March 20, 2012

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