History, Impact today

On Father’s Day and Holiday’s Sentimental Attempts to Domesticate Manliness

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Special Day Honoring Fatherhood

Father’s Day celebrated its 100th Anniversary in the U.S. in 2010. In 1909, Sonora Smart-Dodd of Spokane, Washington, being one of six children being raised by a single father, wanted to honor him. She suggested to her local churches that June 5th, her father’s birthday, be a day in which parishioners honored fatherhood. The pastors of the churches approved the idea of a special day honoring fatherhood, but needed more time to prepare sermons on the topic. That was why the first Father’s Day observance took place on June 19th, 1909.

Several people had suggested a holiday honoring fatherhood before that and had attempted to gain public support for the idea. One of those people was Grace Golden Clayton. While in mourning from losing her father in a mining disaster that took the lives of 361 men, she asked her local pastor to honor those men. The pastor agreed, both for her and on behalf of the approximately 1000 children the disaster left fatherless. Her request resulted in the first public celebration honoring fatherhood taking place on July 5th, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia.

President Calvin Coolidge recognized Father’s Day in 1924, and in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an official proclamation of recognition of Father’s Day and made a request that flags be flown on all government buildings that day in honor of fatherhood. Father’s Day wasn’t made a national holiday until 1972, by President Richard Nixon.

Today, Father’s Day is celebrated by over 50 countries.

In the U.S., it is customary for fathers to receive a tie as a gift. In other countries, Father’s Day may be celebrated on a different day and with different traditions and gifts.

For many countries, religious traditions are interwoven into the holiday. For example, in Brazil, Father’s Day is celebrated on August 2nd, in honor of Saint Joachim, the patron saint of fathers and grandfathers.

In other countries, in addition to honoring fatherhood, the holiday also honors men’s role in society, including their military service, with parades on Father’s Day.

In Germany, on the 40th day of Easter, men celebrate Father’s Day by loading wagons with beer and hauling them to the woods. Just as women are often relieved from their mothering duties on Mother’s Day, so German fathers are relieved of theirs during their celebration.

Australia’s Father’s Day celebration on the first Sunday of September consists of special meals, outings, and stories about inspirational men and how their actions have benefited children. Gifts of adventurous experiences, such as parachuting, are also gaining popularity.

While Father’s Day being declared a holiday was meant to publicly honor fatherhood and the important role men play in society, not all men have felt honored. According to one article, many men were offended by the idea of receiving gifts and flowers like women did on Mother’s Day. In his book “American Masculinities: A Historical Encyclopedia“, historian Timothy Marr says that men

“scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products — often paid for by the father himself.”

In the U.S. and many other countries, Father’s Day does in fact increase sales figures. In 2009 Father’s Day, U.S. consumers spent an average of $90.89 on gifts in honor of fatherhood. By 2014, that figure had increased to $115.57, with an estimated total spending for Father’s Day a whopping 12.7 billion dollars. Those gifts ranged from simple cards to family outings, electronics and golf lessons. According to the retail federation, in 2009 Americans spent $749 million dollars on 93 million Hallmark Father’s Day cards alone. Hallmark has been printing Father’s Day cards since the 1920s.

Despite the fact that many lament the commercialization of Father’s Day, money spent is a symbol of the value of fathers to their children and society. However, the gift that father’s treasure most is the very real time, attention, appreciation and affection given them by their children, not just on Father’s Day, but throughout the year.

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