Why Do We Celebrate Father's Day?

by Pamela J. Hobart

You've probably already written your dad a Father's Day card and shipped off a gift without even thinking twice, but why do we celebrate Father's Day in the first place? On the one hand, the reason is obvious: dads are amazing, and they clearly deserve a day of honor and remembrance. Mothers get their own holiday, so Father's Day reflects a certain gender parity, too. And when else would dear old dad get to bask in parental recognition? But this love for dads at some point got institutionalized into a formal holiday, and while you may not know the history of Father's Day, it's an interesting story to brush up on.

It all started with one American woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, who was raised by her father in Spokane, Washington following the death of her mother during childhood. Ms. Dodd's father was born in June, so she chose that month for Father's Day, and successfully encouraged her city's residents to celebrate the very first Father's Day as we know it in 1910.

Father's Day caught on, with good reason. Although this was before things could "go viral" on the Internet, word of Father's Day still managed to spread (via pony express, perhaps?), and by 1916 Americans were clamoring for President Woodrow Wilson to make Father's Day official. Wilson, having previously signed Mother's Day into existence in 1914, liked the idea, but never did sign on the dotted line.

Finally, during his tenure as President, Calvin Coolidge signed a resolution acknowledging Father's Day in 1924, marking it as an American holiday to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations." In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order indicating that Father's Day was to be celebrated on the third Sunday in June — allegedly a request by ministers who needed more time to prepare the relevant sermons between Mother's and Father's Day.

By the mid-twentieth century, Father's Day had been well-established in the United States through actual practices, and not just government decree. In particular, Father's Day was celebrated heavily amidst World War II as a way to support the troops, many of whom were fathers. So, in 1972, Congress passed an act under President Richard Nixon to make it a legit national holiday. Father's Day's mother, Sonora Dodd, was happily still alive to see this take place.

So next time you see someone complaining that Father's Day is a fake holiday fabricated by greeting card companies, you can point out that it was actually created by the people, for the fathers. Companies looking to get their piece of the Father's Day pie, and even the government, merely followed suit. We Americans celebrate Father's Day because we want to, and thankfully most dads just want a little peace and quiet, and maybe some beer or BBQ, in return. Hopefully you can make it happen for them — they've earned it.

Images: Giphy (2)