When I was fourteen, I thought my father was the dumbest man I had ever met. When I saw him again at the age of twenty-one, I was amazed at how much he had learned in the last seven years. Mark Twain
Fathers Day, contrary to popular misconception, was not established to promote the sale of greeting cards. When a "Fathers Day" was first proposed back in 1909, there were no such cards to honor the occasion. Mrs. Sonora Dodd, of Washington first got the idea for such a holiday while attending a lecture about Mothers Day. The idea was not entirely new, as a Dr. Robert Webb conducted what is believed to be the first Fathers Day service at the Central Church of Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908. It was Dodds efforts, however, that led to a national observance.
Mrs. Dodd was motivated by her very own special father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran. He was widowed when Sonoras mother died in childbirth with their sixth child, and he was left to raise his children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. It was only after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown as a single parent.
As Sonoras father was born in the month of June, she chose to hold the first Fathers Day celebration in Spokane, Washington, on the 19th of June, 1910. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America other people were beginning to celebrate a "Fathers Day." In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge (the very same of whom Dorothy Parker asked when told he was dead: "How can you tell?") supported the idea of a national Fathers Day. It wasnt until 1966, however, that the 3rd Sunday in June officially became Fathers Day with a proclamation signed by Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Today Fathers Day is as popular a holiday as Mothers Day. (Only fitting, for one could not do it without the other, unless some new way to become a parent has been invented that has escaped my attention.) Although the holiday is not celebrated on the same day everywhere in the world, the concept of honoring Dad with a special day seems to be universal. Flowers are a part of the tradition, as they are for Mothers Day (Fathers who are florists must pay rent too, you know.) Red roses are worn on Fathers Day to signify that ones father is living, while white roses means ones father has died.
To quote Anne Sexton, "it doesnt matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was." And whoever he was, for better or worse, is a part of who you and I and all of us are today. We must honor that part of ourselves, that immortality in a sense, that carries us from one generation to the next. Consider where Christopher Columbus would have been without his mother. Think about that for just a moment. There would be no America. In addition, where would he have been without his father? And now my friends, the important question. Where would all of us be without Christopher Columbus? In some other strange country without a passport. Thats where.
Happy Fathers Day to all fathers and their children everywhere.
Did you know . . .
For more holiday fun, see this related article:
Mother's Day; Why Is It So?