The History Behind Father’s Day
Father’s Day wasn’t always a nationally recognized holiday, and it certainly didn’t begin as a day on which we’re expected to buy gifts for our fathers. In fact, it has a long and twisty history, with origins dating back to the early 1900s. This Father’s Day, take a moment to note the history of why we celebrate this day.
Inspiration from Mother’s Day
To understand the beginnings of Father’s Day, we have to look back at an earlier holiday: Mother’s Day. That’s right, the two holidays didn’t begin at the same time, and in fact, Mother’s Day was an official holiday decades before Father’s Day became official. As Mother’s Day started to spread throughout the country in the early 20th century, some were inspired to hold events honoring their fathers as well.
One of these events was organized by a Western Virginian woman named Grace Golden Clayton, whose father had been killed in a mining accident that killed hundreds of other men. While Clayton’s event was meant to be more of a remembrance of the fathers who had lost their lives in the accident, this one-time celebration went on to inspire another woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, years later. Dodd, along with her several siblings, had been raised by a single father, and she wanted a day to celebrate all male parents. The first such celebration was held in Spokane in 1910.
Seeking the President’s’ Approval
Six years later, President Woodrow Wilson visited Spokane to speak at the then-annual Father’s Day event, and he expressed a desire to make the event an official holiday. Similarly, President Calvin Coolidge also wished for the holiday to become nationally recognized. However, those in Congress–and civilians throughout the country–derided the idea of an official Father’s Day. The detractors believed that such a holiday was too sentimental for men, and they also feared that the holiday would become overly commercialized, as Mother’s Day was becoming at the time.
The Great Depression and World War II changed the public opinion of Father’s Day. Businesses that were hard up for customers began to market Father’s Day in an attempt to drum up business, and during the war, companies advertised the day as a way to celebrate the troops. Over the years, the public got used to Father’s Day and it became widely accepted. Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the holiday into law.
A Commercial Success
Nowadays, Father’s Day is celebrated throughout the world. While some countries have similar holidays or combine Mother’s Day and Father’s Day into a single Parent’s Day, many others celebrate the same holiday as Americans do, and on the same day. Not only has the holiday spread, but it’s also become a huge financial event.
While Americans spend about double on Mother’s Day than they do on Father’s Day, they’re still willing to shell out a lot of money – it’s been estimated that Americans spend about $12 billion each year on Father’s Day. Ironically, it’s the very commercialization of the holiday that people feared a hundred years ago that keeps Father’s Day going.
Looking back at the origins of Father’s Day, we can see that it was created with wholehearted intentions. While the modern Father’s Day may be tied to gift-giving and retail sales, it’s worth remembering the true heart of the holiday: honoring the men who stand by their duties as fathers.