What has Father’s Day got to do with the American Civil War? A lot, really.
Way back in 1909 a young American woman Sonora Smart Dodd was sitting in church in the town of Spokane in Washington State, listening to a Mother’s Day sermon.
She decided she wanted to designate a day for her dad, William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran who had taken the responsibility of singlehandedly raising the newborn Sonora and his other four children after their mother died in childbirth.
Backed by the local Mayor, and several local clergymen the first Father’s Day, “sermons honouring fathers were presented throughout the city” on June 19, 1910.
Young Spokane women handed out red roses to their fathers during a church service, and large baskets full of roses were passed around, with attendees encouraged to pin on a rose in honor of their fathers – red for the living and white in memory of the deceased.
As the saying goes, the rest is history, even though it wasn’t until 1972 that President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it a permanent holiday.
Our Father’s Day next Sunday, which will see millions of Australians honouring their Dads with lots of family get-togethers, hugs and kisses, phone calls and presents, has a shorter history.
The broad tradition appears to date back to the mid-1930s, as a tiny report in the Newcastle Sun newspaper in 1936 treats it as an entirely new event.
The article said: “A new day for the Calendar is “Father’s Day,” September 6. Mother’s Day has become very popular, and maybe “Father’s Day” will also become so, too!. The colored flower for father is poppy-red. A special
“Father’s Day” meeting for Newcastle has been arranged, and will be held
Sunday, September 6, in the Newcastle Baptist Tabernacle at 4.30 pm. The special speaker will be the well-known “broadcast” preacher, Pastor Weller, of Sydney. The meeting will be open to men of all denominations, and all fathers are requested to invite their sons.’’
While Australia’s Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in September (along with New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea) it isn’t the case elsewhere in the world.
The most common choice worldwide is the third Sunday in June, a tradition deriving from that first one held in Spokane in the US and now followed in more than 70 countries.
Mother’s Day has similar global variations, but Australia lines up with the majority of countries by celebrating it on the second Sunday in May. And that gives us one other potential reason for our different date down under: Mother’s Day in May followed by Father’s Day in June makes for an expensive couple of months.
Being able to wait until September means you potentially have more funds to splurge on Dad even though we spend a lot more on our Mums than our Dads.
A study back in 2014 revealed we spend about $1.4 billion on Mums and $753 million on Dads.
The commercialisation of Father’s Day, according to some accounts, can be traced back to 1938 in the US where a national Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day was formed by men’s clothing retailers in New York.
As we said before, the rest is history.