Father’s Day 2017: How did it begin?

This Sunday, families across the world will mark the special bond between fathers and their children. For many, this is often done through the giving of gifts and cards. Others prefer to enjoy a meal and quality time.

While sometimes criticized as being a commercial event, its roots are more historic than many people think.

When is it?

Father’s Day this year falls on Sunday, 19 June.

Is that everywhere?

No. While the third Sunday of June is the day celebrated in the UK, US and many other countries around the world, it is not the only day given over to fathers. In Italy, the Festa del Papà is celebrated on 19 March, as is Spain’s Día del Padre. In Ukraine, it’s celebrated on the third Sunday of September and in Indonesia, its the twelfth of every November.

For this reason, this year’s Google Doodle commemorating dads will only appear in the countries celebrating Father’s Day, alongside the UK, such as Japan, India and Colombia.

Where does it come from?

Though it is certainly an American tradition, there are two popular stories which are used to explain the origins of Father’s Day.

According to one tale, it first began because of a woman named Grace Golden Clayton from Fairmount, West Virginia. An orphan herself, she lobbied her local Methodist ministers for a church service to honour fathers in 1908. It is thought she was inspired to do so after the Monongah mining disaster, also in West Virginia, in 1907. The calamity, one of the worst in US mining history, killed 362 local men.

Their deaths widowed 250 women and orphaned more than 1,000 children. Mrs Clayton wanted to pay tribute to the dead fathers, as well as her own.

And the other story?

The daughter of a civil war veteran, Sonora Smart Dodd, from Arkansas, was inspired to honour her father, who had brought up six children himself after his wife died in childbirth. Ms Dodd was just 16 when he died.

While listening to a sermon for Mother’s Day – established in 1905 – Ms Dodd became convinced of the need to celebrate the male parent. Like Clayton, she campaigned to her religious leaders – also Methodists – for a special service dedicated to fathers.

In 1910, the first Father’s Day celebration was held by Ms Dodd in 1910 in a YMCA in Spokane, Washington.

However, it took some time to gain the popularity it currently enjoys – many people feared it would be used purely as a commercial ploy.

Is it enshrined in law?

In 1913, US Congress officially designated that “The third Sunday in June is Father’s Day,” a date which has stuck.

President Calvin Coolidge also recommended that the day was observed nationally, though did not pass any orders enforcing this. The first presidential order calling for the observation of Father’s Day was by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. But it wasn’t until 1972 that it was permanently signed into law by President Richard Nixon.