Guest column: Exploring the origins of Father’s Day

Father's Day is this weekend
Father's Day is this weekend

After writing about Mother’s Day in March I though it only fair to look into the origins of Father’s Day, which fall this Sunday, June 18.

I had always assumed we had just adopted what the Americans were doing after World War II, but it turns out its origins are much older.

St Joseph’s Day or the Feast of Saint Joseph is, in western Christianity, the principal feast day of St Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary.

St Joseph’s Day is the patronal feast day for Poland and Canada, persons named Joseph, Josephine, for religious institutes, schools and parishes bearing his name and for carpenters.

It is also Father’s Day in some Catholic countries, mainly Spain, Portugal and Italy.

This celebration was brought by the Spanish and Portuguese to Latin America, where March 19 is often still used for it.

It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May.

However, Father’s Day as we know it was not celebrated outside Catholic traditions until the 20th century.

After Anna Jarvis’ successful promotion of Mother’s Day in Grafton, West Virginia, the first observance of a’Father’s Day’ was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia.

The event was never promoted outside the town itself and no proclamation of it was made by the city council.

But not long after on June 19, 1910, a Father’s Day celebration was held at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington by Sonora Smart Dodd.

After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday to honour them.

Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday in June.

Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day ‘sermons honouring fathers were presented throughout the city’.

However, in the 1920’s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying in Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity.

In the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level.

By 1938, she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, which was founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematise the holiday’s commercial promotion.

In 1966, President Lyndon B Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honouring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.

Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

So if you want to treat Dad to a day out bring him to visit the Old Hall or just treat him to cake in the coffee shop.

Victoria Mason-Hines is site co-ordinator at Gainsborough Old Hall