Celebrating Dad: The History of Father’s Day

Celebrating Dad: The History of Father's Day (hero)

Father’s Day is nearly here! Since we recently covered the backstory of Mother’s Day, it’s only fair we talk about how Dad’s day came to be as well. Recognized on the third Sunday in June, for 2020 Father’s Day falls on June 21st. Have you ever been curious about the history of Father’s Day? Though Father’s Day wasn’t made a national holiday until Congress passed an act in 1972, the efforts of two women on separate coasts sparked a movement to celebrate dads long before then.

The History of Father’s Day

The first known Father’s Day service occurred in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton organized a service to honor all fathers, especially those hundreds who were killed during a devastating mine explosion in Monongah (just a few miles from Fairmont) the previous year. The observance didn’t end up becoming an annual event, and it wasn’t widely promoted—very few outside the local area knew about it.

Meanwhile, in Washington..

In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, also was inspired to create a holiday honoring fathers. William Jackson Smart, her father, was a farmer and Civil War veteran that raised Sonora and her five younger brothers by himself after his wife, Ellen, died giving birth to their youngest child in 1898. While attending a Mother’s Day church service in 1909, Sonora, then 27, came up with the idea.

Within a few months, Sonora had convinced the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA to set aside a Sunday in June to celebrate fathers. She proposed June 5: her father’s birthday. The ministers ultimately settled on the third Sunday in June so they’d have more time after Mother’s Day (the second Sunday in May) to prepare their sermons. On June 19, 1910 Sonora delivered presents to handicapped fathers. Boys from the YMCA decorated their lapels with fresh-cut roses (red for living fathers, white for the deceased), and the city’s ministers devoted their sermons to fatherhood.

Making Father’s Day Matter this Year

So, now you’ve got the history of Father’s Day. How will you celebrate Dad this year? If you’re looking to go above and beyond the last-minute card (and we know you are!), here are a few ideas.

  • Serve Dad an all-star brunch. Bacon, sausage, eggs, fruit salad and cinnamon rolls—just don’t forget the coffee!
  • Have a family game night! Phones down, snacks out–get everyone in the family involved.
  • Pack up a backyard picnic and screen a movie outside!
  • Get out on the water! Indulge his love of fishing by renting a boat for the occasion (alternatively, if you’re looking to enjoy the fun long-term Y-12 FCU has boat and personal watercraft loan options to fit your lifestyle). If he’s the adventurous type, he’ll love a ride on a jet ski! Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
  • Fire up the grill! This one’s a no-brainer–just let Dad do his thing! You can take the opportunity to learn a thing or two from him about just how it’s done.
  • Take a family hike! Enjoy the great outdoors and explore a new-to-you or family favorite trail! Not sure where to start? Click here for a great resource for finding your next favorite hiking destination.
  • Host a beer tasting. Plan an afternoon of sampling different craft beers—thanks to you, he may find his new favorite! Bragging rights = secured.