Father’s Day this year falls on Sunday, June 15. Complete with barbecues, cards and the obligatory tie, the day is a chance to show thanks for all the dads in our lives. But the day all about dad didn’t catch on as quickly as its counterpart for moms.
Here’s what you need to know about Father’s Day:
1. Father’s Day Was Originally Written off as a Gimmick
According to The History Channel, even after President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe formal celebrations of fathers in 1924, the holiday was mocked for diminishing fathers’ natural masculinity and a gimmick designed for retailers to profit.
Those criticisms weren’t necessarily unfounded, as the “founder” of Father’s Day, Sonora Smart Dodd, teamed up with the Associated Men’s Wear Retailers, a men’s clothing trade group based in New York City, to market the holiday in the 1930s.
Since this meeting, Father’s Day promotions and sales have been offered by stores for clothing, gadgets and tools. According to the National Retail Foundation, Father’s Day is the smallest American gift-giving holiday, and the average person will spend a $113.80 on gifts for dad in 2014. Nation-wide spending on Father’s Day is expected to total $12.5 billion this year.
2. Its Founder Was Raised by Her Father
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Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington is credited with founding Father’s Day in 1910. According to the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau, Dodd’s mother died when she was 16 and her father, William Jackson Smart, raised her and her five brothers and sisters by himself. After hearing a mother’s day sermon at a church in Spokane, Washington, she approached her pastor and the Spokane YMCA with the idea of recognizing fathers for their contribution to childrens’ lives.
3. Richard Nixon Made it a Federal Holiday
As part of his 1972 re-election campaign, Richard Nixon signed a proclamation that made Father’s Day a federal holiday. The official flower of Father’s Day is the rose, according to the Nashua Telegraph.
Since becoming a federal holiday, presidents have issued Father’s Day proclamations, asking the nation to celebrate the fathers in their lives. In 2010, Barack Obama made Father’s Day Proclamation history when he mentioned families that have two fathers. The proclamation reads:
Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step father, a grandfather, or caring guardian. We owe a special debt of gratitude for those parents serving in the United States Armed Forces and their families, whose sacrifices protect the lives and liberties of all American children. For the character they build, the doors they open, and the love they provide over our lifetimes, all our fathers deserve our unending appreciation and admiration.
4. A Mining Explosion Lead to the First “Father’s Day Service”
On December 6, 1907, the Monongah Coal Mine in Monongah, West Virginia exploded, killing 352 workers, widowing 250 women and leaving thousands of children fatherless. Considered the worst mining disaster in American history, a “Father’s Day” service to honor those lost in the mine was held on July 8, 1908, after Grace Golden Clayton suggested her pastor find a way to honor the men lost in the explosion. Clayton tried to get her town to recognize July 8 as an official “Father’s Day” but was unsuccessful due to the day’s proximity to Independence Day.
5. Experts Say the ‘bar is lower’ for Father’s Day Than Mother’s Day
Father’s Day grew in popularity during and after World War II, after the day was used to recognize fathers and troops fighting overseas, according to Liberty Voice. However, the stakes have never been quite as high as they are for Mother’s Day, according to Nicole Gilbert Cote of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She told National Geographic that dads tend to be more satisfied with their Father’s Day gifts than mothers are on Mother’s Day, and that dads don’t expect to be relieved of chores and household responsibilities on Father’s Day, unlike moms on Mother’s Day.
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