National Holiday: Happy Centennial, Father’s Day!

SUNDAY, JUNE 14: As millions of us thank our fathers this weekend, we’ve collectively reached a major milestone: the centennial anniversary of Father’s Day! After hearing a church sermon in praise of mothers on Mother’s Day in 1909, Washington resident Sonora Smart Dodd decided that fathers, too, should have a day of recognition, and so set to work. (Wikipedia has detials.) Dodd had been raised in a rather unusual situation: Following the death of her mother during childbirth, Dodd and her five siblings were cared for by her father. (Even today, only 15 percent of single parents are men. Get more Father’s Day stats from the U.S. Government.) To aid in her quest to establish a day for fathers, Dodd enlisted the help of a local ministerial association; just one year later, Father’s Day was celebrated in her hometown of Spokane. A national Father’s Day didn’t draw as much public support as Mother’s Day, and although the YMCA and numerous churches backed the idea, it became the subject of jokes. It wasn’t until 1972 that the nation officially recognized a day for dads. So go out there and enjoy it today! (Hey, kids—get craft ideas and more at Kaboose! And grown-up kids—find some tantalizing grilling recipes there, too.)

Around the globe, fathers are recognized in 55 countries, including the U.S., on the third Sunday of June. In many countries, fathers have long been recognized in association with a day for men, or a day dedicated to the paternal aspects of society. ( has a neat sampling of famous figures commenting on their fathers.)

Hallmark has been revving up for this year’s centennial anniversary for dads, including a new multimedia site that gives viewers an inside peek at how Father’s Day cards—and fathers’ roles—have changed in the past 100 years. (Check it out here.) As Hallmark points out, the cultural view of fathers has changed greatly through the years: While a father in the 1940s was often pictured relaxing on an easy chair, dads in the 1970s were assured that they were “groovy.” Fathers today are praised for their help around the home, as more women go back to work and men share a more equal role in raising children. (For busy dads who are always trying to find more time to spend with their children, this heartwarming article from Christianity Today has examples of how you can maximize the time you do have.)

ReadTheSpirit offers lots of inspiring and thought-provoking reflections on fathers—and parenting in general. (Read part of our series about “America’s Best Theologian” Stanley Hauerwas in which Stanley talks about the importance of his father.) often explores values we develop through our families. (Here’s a great series on parents, children and American life that includes key thoughts about fathers’ roles.)

Our relationships with fathers connect us with spiritual stories from around the world. (In this story, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm recalled the inspiration of his own father when reviewing a new book by Jan de Hartog.)

And all weekend long, let’s remember: “Thanks, Dad!”

(By ReadTheSpirit columnist Stephanie Fenton)

(NOTE: To see more short articles about upcoming holidays, festivals and anniversaries, click the “RTS Magazines” tab at the top of this page and select “Religious Holidays.”)


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