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How Did the Celebration of Father's Day Get Started?

Father and Son

Father and Son

Not many countries of the world celebrate fathers with their own official day. But that is what is done in the United States every third Sunday in June. Father’s Day is a special day for dads when they are pampered by their children, given gifts, and even surprised with breakfast in bed!

There are many different stories as to the origins of Father’s Day so we don’t know exactly when the first Father’s Day was celebrate. However, we do know who was one of the most passionate proponents of this holiday. Sonora Dodd, of Washington state, first thought of the idea of a “father’s day” while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Sonora wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, who was a widowed Civil War veteran. With much difficulty, Smart had raised six children on his own and bestowed love and affection to make them blossom in life. After Sonora became an adult, she realized the selflessness her father had shown in raising his children.

In the eyes of his daughter, Mr. Smart was a courageous, selfless, and loving man. Mrs. Dodd spoke to her minister and other ministers around Spokane to see if they would have a church service that was solely dedicated to fathers. She wished this service to be held on June 5th, her father’s birthday. However, it was actually scheduled on June 19th, since there was not enough time for her minister to prepare such a service by the 5th. Thus, the first Father’s Day celebration was held in Washington on the 19th of June 1910.

Other states and organizations now wanted an annual Father’s Day for the whole country. They began lobbying Congress to declare such a holiday. The idea of a “Father’s Day” was approved by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, but it was not official until President Calvin Coolidge made it a national event in 1924. This was followed by a presidential proclamation in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson, who signed a declaration making the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day. Finally in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the law which made the holiday permanent.