Father's Day wasn't always the meaningful celebration it is now

"Quite apart from the commercialisation angle, it is perfectly obvious that the day does have enormous benefits."

Father’s Day is, of course, little more than a marketing ploy designed by the world of commerce, which realised that, like the rather more genuine Mother’s Day, there were fresh new profits to be garnered. The world is always ready and willing to take up some new reason to spend their money, provided someone creates a good reason for doing so, and what could be better than to create a male equivalent of the original.

This of course, is to present the most jaundiced view of the day, true as it may be. There is no doubt that Father’s Day has now taken on a life of its own, after being in existence in the USA in the form we recognise, since about 1910, though European Catholics have celebrated it since the Middle Ages under the title ‘The Feast Day of Saint Joseph’, when it was (and still is), a purely religious event.

The modern occasion was born in a Spokane, Washington YMCA, created by Sonora Smart Dodd, and it was from that very small beginning that the celebration we now know grew. It was still, at that time a pretty well religious day, taking place on the third Sunday in June each year, until the early 1920’s when Sonora Dodd stopped promoting the celebration, in favour of her studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. After that it faded into relative obscurity for some years.

But there must have been a spark of life in there somewhere, because by 1938 there was a Father’s Day Council in New York, promoted by the Associated Men’s Wear Retailers, to consolidate its commercial promotion, alongside the already profitable Mothers’ Day. At first though the idea didn’t really catch on with the public, cynical about the obvious attempt to make money at their expense, and it was as late as the 1980’s that The Father’s Day Council wrote ‘…Father’s Day has become a Second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries”, a comment that tends to bear out my earlier statements regarding its position as a marketing tool!

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The United States Congress actually gave recognition to the Day as early as 1913, and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to give a speech at a Father’s Day celebration. He wanted to make it a Federal Holiday, but Congress resisted, fearing it would become commercialized, (how right they were!). The matter was raised again in1924, when Calvin Coolidge suggested it should be observed throughout the entire Nation. But he never actually issued a National Proclamation.

The sexual discrimination nature of the day, in its relation to Mothers’ Day, was raised in 1957, when Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Fathers’ Day proposal, accusing Congress of ignoring Father’s Day for forty years while honouring only mothers, thus singling out just one of the two parents.

As can be seen, and as most readers will be well aware, Father’s Day was, for a very long time, a mainly American ‘thing’, where commercialising of events had been endemic for many years, but we are all a little bent in that direction today, so I guess the best thing is to at least enjoy it as a pleasant event, just as most others seem to do.

Quite apart from the commercialisation angle, it is perfectly obvious that the day does have enormous benefits, especially in the extra bonding it affords, between a father and his son, or his daughter, in a world where such occasions don’t take place as often as they once used to do. We are all too busy, too mercenary or too stressed these days, to give our kids the attention they really do need, and Father’s Day gives all us Dads one time when we can get to know each other just that little bit better.

So, good luck to the entrepreneurs who are stealing our money every year, you ARE creating a slightly happier world while you do it, and who can really complain about that?

Do you see Father’s Day as a commercial money maker, or a meaningful celebration of fatherhood?