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The history of Father’s Day

With Father’s Day coming up soon, many of us are searching for that perfect gift to show our fathers just how much we appreciate them. But how did the now widely celebrated holiday start?

Origins of Father’s Day

Just like many of our holidays, Father’s Day began as a primarily religious observance. A traditional Catholic holiday celebrating fatherhood, Father’s Day has been recognized in some way dating back to the Middle Ages. Traditionally, Father’s Day took place on March 19, which is the date the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph.

The modern version of Father’s Day rose to prominence after the creation of Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis was the champion of Mother’s Day, successfully lobbying for the holiday’s first celebration in the early 1900s. The purpose of Father’s Day was to complement Mother’s Day by recognizing the father’s role in parenting.

Interestingly, both these holidays had their first official celebrations in West Virginia. Mother’s Day was first recognized in Grafton, West Virginia, and the first celebration of Father’s Day as we know it today took place in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908.


Father’s Day is established

In reality, Father’s Day would not have reached the status that it has today without the efforts of one woman, Sonora Smart Dodd. One of the reasons that Dodd was so passionate about the holiday was that she and her siblings were raised by a single father, William Jackson Smart.

Dodd was inspired to start a holiday for fathers after hearing a sermon at her church about Anna Jarvis’s effort to establish Mother’s Day. After the sermon, Dodd approached her pastor and said she believed fathers deserved their own day of celebration. Her original idea was that the holiday be held on June 5, her father’s birthday.

Instead, to provide more time to prepare sermons for the holiday, Dodd proposed that the Father’s Day event be held on June 19, 1910, the third Sunday of the month. Dodd continued holding these celebrations in Spokane, Washington, for many years until she left to study art in Chicago. She resumed celebrations when she returned to Spokane in the 1930s.

Based on Dodd’s efforts, several politicians attempted to formalize the holiday with little success. U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson designated the celebration of Father’s Day with a presidential proclamation, and Father’s Day was made a national holiday in 1972 by President Richard M. Nixon.


Father’s Day today

Although it took some time for Father’s Day to be recognized as an official holiday, it is now a cherished celebration for millions of people around the world. Now that you know the history of Father’s Day, we invite you to plan a celebration that will honour the fathers in your lives with the enthusiasm intended by the holiday’s first champions.

Most Canadian dads can look forward this Sunday to a host of gestures and gifts from their children, including the perennial favourites such as pancakes for breakfast, socks, ties, and aftershave, just to name a few.

But keep in mind that, according to a March 2018 survey in Canada by, “The majority of dads (79 per cent) agree that fathers don’t expect a gift for Father’s Day, as much as mothers do for Mother’s Day.”

So perhaps all dad wants is to spend time with his kids and feel loved and appreciated, and the best thing you could do for him is to show him that love.

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