Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fathers Day

Firstly a thank you to my two young 'uns (Sarah and Jonathan) for the cards and gifts - I shall certainly make full use of the National Trust membership.

I know the rough story of how Mothers' Day came to be but Fathers' Day was something of a mystery. A little research and I discover the Catholic observed March 19th as the day for fatherhood, that being St Joseph's Day. Not until 1908 was Fathers' Day first seen in it's modern form. Mrs Grace Golden Clayton wanted to celebrate the lives of 210 fathers lost in the Monongah Mining Disaster in West Virginia in December the previous year. However this was a one-off event.

The first attempt at a regular date began in 1910 and was again an American concept. Even then it was limited to Spokane, Washington and was again proposed by a woman, one Sonora Smart Dodd - not as an honour to the father of her children but to her own father. William Smart, a veteran of the American Civil War, had been a widower after his wife died giving birth to thier sixth child when Sonora was just 16 years of age. Since that time he had played the role of both parents.

That first year of 1910 the celebrations were limited to the wearing of a rose, red for a living father and white for one now deceased. Whenever attempts were made to make the day official, the media ridiculed these as filling the calendar with another pointless promotional exercise. The next major voice came in the shape of Senator Margaret Chase Smith who, in 1957, accused Congress of singling out one parent over another. Nine years later President Lyndon B Johnson declared the third Sunday in June to be Fathers' Day, although it was not official until 1972, the United Kingdom followed soon afterwards.

While the third Sunday of June is the most common date, Fathers' Day is still celebrated in many Catholic countries on March 19th. The Arab world choose June 21st, the first day of summer. Scandinavian and Baltic nations have a preference for the second Sunday in November. Brazil opt for the second Sunday of August, nine months before Mothers' Day. Hindu countries opt for Amavasya, New Moon Day in late August or early September.

In Thailand the day is movable and always shares the birthday of the current king. Taiwanese fathers chose the 8th day of the 8th month, for 'eight' translates to ba and is similar to the word for 'father' and hence known as Baba's Day. Germany chose Ascension Day, forty days after Easter, and in some parts men embark on a hiking tour with small waggons laden wine or beer and regional food choices - today just an excuse for getting drunk.

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