Why do we celebrate father’s day?

3 Jun 2020

Events Father's Day

Around the world, families celebrate Father’s Day to honour dads, grandfathers, and other paternal figures. But where did the holiday come from?

Father’s Day rolls around every June, and many of us rush to find Dad a gift. But although we remember it, Father’s Day can be considered to have less of an impact than other festivals and celebrations. Mother’s Day, for instance, has some biblical precedence. Mothering Sunday occurs on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and honours the Virgin Mary. But the link between Father’s Day and religious celebration is more abstract. 

Want to learn more?

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • The origins of Father’s Day
  • Father’s Day celebrations today
  • How to celebrate Father’s Day
Father hiking with a toddler

The origins of Father’s Day

Ever wondered when the first Father’s Day celebrations took place? Well, the holiday dates back as far as the Middle Ages. However, the original festival was quite different to how we celebrate today.

It all began as a Catholic feast. European Catholics began celebrating on the 19th of March to honour Saint Joseph, ‘Nourisher of the Lord.’ During this holy day, people would pay their respects to Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, as it was important to acknowledge and commemorate the fatherly duties that Joseph carried out.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Spanish and Portuguese Catholics took their beliefs and celebrations, including the feast of Saint Joseph, to the Americas.

Why do we celebrate the holiday in June?

If the feast of Saint Joseph took place on the 19th of March every year, you might wonder why we celebrate Father’s Day in June. Whilst devout Catholics might continue to celebrate the original meaning behind Father’s Day, those who celebrate the holiday for more emotional or familial reasons may be surprised to hear how the non-religious celebration started.

The holiday as we know it all began in 1908 thanks to Grace Golden Clayton from West Virginia, USA. Grace sadly lost her father in a mining accident that killed 362 men, and decided there should be a holiday dedicated to honouring fathers. She suggested the idea to her pastor, and the first non-Catholic celebration of the day took place in West Virginia that same year. Attendees handed out red and white flowers to honour the living and the dead. 

It’s worth noting that the commemoration in West Virginia didn’t take place again. But perhaps it inspired the next incarnation of Father’s Day…

In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd, a woman from Washington who had been raised by a single father after her mother’s death, decided there should be a celebration to honour dads. She was upset that there was a Mother’s Day celebration but nothing for fathers. She petitioned her local community and government, hoping to set up a holiday on June 5th, her father’s birthday. 

Her petition was taken on board, although the date was delayed. And the first Washington State Father’s Day took place on the 16th of June 1910. Other states followed suit with Father’s Day and, in 1913, Congress announced the third Sunday of June would be the official day to celebrate it. 

What kind of gifts were popular back then?

Nowadays, pretty much anything goes when it comes to presents for Dad. It’s important to think about what your giftee would like best. And if you’re not sure? Chocolate is a sure-fire winner!

But what Father’s Day gifts did people give their dads in the early 20th century? Well, in the 1910s and 1920s when the occasion was just taking off, neckties were the number one choice! Ties were so popular, in fact, that manufacturers would have to produce extra to keep up with demand. Children would present their fathers with greetings cards, too. 

A range of ties with gold balloons spelling out 'DAD'

Father’s day celebrations today

Although Father’s Day was made official in the US in 1913, it wasn’t legally binding until President Richard Nixon wrote Father’s day into the law in 1972. Over time, the idea of a special day to honour dads, grandfathers, and other father figures gathered steam in the UK and Canada.

Some other countries, however, didn’t follow America’s lead but have their own Father’s Day celebrations at different times of the year. For example, predominantly Catholic countries like Italy and Spain chose to keep their Father’s Day celebrations tied to the original religious feast of Saint Joseph. They celebrate Festa del Papà and Día del Padre, respectively, on the 19th of March.

Meanwhile, Brazil marks this special day on the second Sunday in August. Australia and New Zealand have their own version, celebrating their fathers on the first Sunday in September.

This diversity in Father’s Day traditions shows that father figures can be honoured in both a religious and non-religious way. For families who don’t follow the Catholic faith, Father’s Day is a lovely chance to celebrate fatherhood and display love and affection with gifts for Dad.

Would you like to learn more about how different countries mark Father’s Day? Take a look at our article on Father’s Day activities and traditions around the world.

Dad and daughter with a 'Happy Father's Day' card

How to celebrate Father’s Day with thoughtful gifts

No matter how seriously you take Father’s Day, giving a small token of your affection can really go a long way. Carefully considering what his likes and dislikes are shows that you’ve put some thought and care behind your gesture.

If you’re searching for Father’s Day gift ideas then look no further. We offer a wide range of treats, sure to suit every taste. Does he like a refreshing tipple? Our irresistible Cocoa Beer is brewed with roasted cacao shells to create a deliciously malty taste. If whisky is more his thing, our Whisky Collection is the perfect choice: 12 liqueur chocolates brimming with top-quality cacao and bourbon, single malt whiskies, and whisky cream liqueur.

We also have Sleeksters and H-Boxes galore — and of course, a cheeky Old Fossil treat, available in milk and dark chocolate! Find the ultimate gift, complete with a special celebratory sleeve, or mix and match Dad’s favourite goodies and curate a personalised hamper.

Happy Father’s Day from the Hotel Chocolat team!