When Is Father’s Day?

Featured Article, Seasonal, Traditions
on February 2, 2013

When your father claims he doesn’t know that Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June, he probably means it. When your father claims he doesn’t really want anything for Father’s Day, he probably doesn’t mean it. And since there’s a good chance “Happy Father’s Day” will appear on the television screen while he’s watching the NBA Finals or the U.S. Open Golf Tournament on the third Sunday in June, you should have his gifts ready on the actual day.

The first statewide celebration. The origins of Father’s Day, according to History.com, has its roots in a memorial service held at a West Virginia Church July 5, 1908, to honor 362 men who had died in a mine explosion the prior December. The memorial service, however, was intended as a one-time observance and not an annual celebration. The following year, Sonora Smart Dodd, raised by a widower with her five siblings in Spokane, Wash., sought to establish an equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. Her pleadings with local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials proved successful, with Washington holding the first statewide Father’s Day July 19, 1910.

Father’s Day meets resistance. Father’s Day initially met resistance from, ironically, fathers, who scoffed at the unmanliness of a special day for receiving gifts and flowers. It was also derided in some circles as a gimmick used to sell merchandise. Woodrow Wilson became the first president to recognize Father’s Day in 1916 by pushing a button in Washington, D.C., that allowed telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged states to recognize Father’s Day.

Parents’ Day. Many felt Mother’s Day had become too commercial in the 1920s, and a movement to decommercialize the holiday and combine it with Father’s Day arose. The new holiday would be called Parents’ Day. When the Great Depression hit, however, retailers recognized the potential profitability of making Father’s Day a separate day of gift-giving for fathers and an opportunity to sell more goods.

Father’s Day goes national. Retailers used the start of World War II to suggest that Father’s Day was a way for Americans to honor troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day, despite not being a national holiday, was being observed nationwide. President Lyndon Johnson issued a presidential proclamation in 1966, establishing Father’s Day as the third Sunday in June. Richard Nixon signed a federal proclamation in 1972, making the holiday official.