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The Origins of Father's Day by The Ceramicist

June 20, 2021

The Ceramicist logo blogging handle of Vivien Phelan

My family did not celebrate Mother or Father’s Day, so it has been good to look into its history and discover when it was founded and why.  And if you would like to mark it with the exchange of gifts, you may like to take inspiration from the original artworks in Skylark Galleries. 

Origins of Father's Day

Father’s Day was first celebrated in a West Virginia U.S.A. church in 1908. It was held to remember the 362 men who died in a coal mining accident the previous year.

Grace Golden Clayton was responsible for the first recognition of fatherhood and the paternal bond.

Then Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by single a father, William Jackson, wanted to have fathers honoured the same way as mothers and achieved this in Spokane, Washington through her persistence and campaigning.

Slowly the celebration was spread throughout America  but it has never been as popular as Mother’s Day, possibly partly because women are said to be more emotional and more appreciative of gifts and expression of thanks! Even today it appears to be more difficult to find a gift for fathers.

In 1930s America there was a campaign to get rid of both Mother’s and Father’s Day. This idea was quickly defeated partly, because of the boost it gave twice a year to the local economy

Support increased in the U.S.A due to President Calvin Coolidge who pressured the Government to mark this celebration. President Lyndon Johnson took up the mantle and in 1966 proclaimed that honouring fathers would be yearly on the 20 June.

Sonora’s Dodd’s message spread throughout the globe and after WWII, Britain started to celebrate Father’s Day.

Why celebrate Father's Day?

So what is Father’s Day for? Father’s Day is obviously a celebration honouring fathers, fatherhood, paternal bonds and the influence of fathers on society.

Fathers like mothers are the pillars of the development of a child. They both provide security - physical and emotional. Studies have shown that a supportive, affectionate father greatly affects a child’s cognitive and social development and instils a sense of well-being and self-confidence. The way a father treats his child will influence him/her in all future relationships.

Some pagans suggest that Father’s Day is closely related to to pagan worship because they believe the sun is the father of the universe.  In addition, the celebration of fathers on 20 June is very close to summer solstice which, in the UK, is between 20-22 June.

Father's Day flower: the rose!

Roses are the official Father’s Day flower.  Originally these were worn to go to church. Sons and daughters used to wear either a red or a white rose in memory of their deceased fathers.

The power of an apostrophe

Many discussions have centred on whether the apostrophe should be before or after the 's' in Mother or Father’s Day. American president Woodrow Wilson, who led his country into World War I, made the decision to opt for ‘s in 1912, saying the “word should be a singular possessive, for each family to honour it’s own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world” - or fathers.

When is Father's Day?

When Father’s Day is celebrated depends on where you are in the world, Several countries such as Spain, Italy and Croatia celebrate on it on 19 March to link it with the Roman Catholic faith and the feast of St Joseph, Mary’s husband and adoptive father of Jesus on this day.

Russia, celebrate Father’s Day on 23 February and is known as, “Defender of the Father’s Day”.  It originally was created to support the armed forces and was made a state holiday in 2002 by President Putin.

Father’s Day in Brazil is on the second Sunday in August in honour of St Joachim (Joseph in English), Mary mother of Jesus’s father.

In Germany it is referred to as "Mannertag" meaning men’s day which falls 40 days after Easter. In some German areas it is traditional for a group of men to disappear into the woods with a barrel of beer, wine & meats!

In China the day is celebrated on 8 August, as the number 8 is pronounced "ba” and a father is called “ba-ba” like “daddy”, which is like saying the 8th of the 8th.  Recently the day has been moved in line with the UK.

In Thailand, Father’s Day is celebrated on the late King Bhumibo’s birthday on the 5 December, as he is seen as the father of Thailand.

WWII and Father's Day

During World War II, advertisers grabbed the opportunity to use Father’s Day to promote the troops fighting. By the end of the war, Father’s Day was firmly set as a national institution.

Commercialisation of Father's Day

The commercialisation of Father’s Day grew as the day became more popular.

The French lighter manufacturer Flaminaire was quick to use a slogan which translates into English as, “Our fathers have told us, for Father’s Day, they all wish to have a Flaminaire lighter”.

At the end of the Great Depression in 1939, The National Retail Dry Goods Association promoted Father’s Day to merchants as a second Christmas and released a 16 page publication entitled, “How to sell more goods for Father’s Day.”

I don’t think we ever reached those selling heights.

A Happy Father’s Day to all dads who read my blog!

If you are looking for a special gift for your own father, you may wish to browse through the original artworks in Skylark Galleries, a few of which I include here. 

Ceramic male covid history original ceramic by Vivien PhelanCeramic male Covid history by Vivien Phelan
H 31 cm W 20cm
Price reduced for Father's Day to £250.00

Mask and crown ceramic by Corrine EdwardsFull life size face cast of OLU at Morley College and a crown with cowrie shell imprints to represent all the precious stones, diamonds etc. Cowries are currency. By Corrine Edwards. Contact artist to purchase.

Flying birds original artwork by Smita SonthaliaFlying Birds by Smita Sonthalia
Mixed media 

30cm x 30cm canvas board
Description: ''Father says, 
Think high to reach the sky
Never give up and always try
Slowly you will learn to fly.''

Musician artist Stella Tooth is resident artist at the Half Moon Putney on whose stage comedians regularly try out their Edinburgh Fringe routines. Her British figurative art is now available on t shirts like comedian Simon Brodkin.

Comedian Simon Brodkin mixed media on paper by Stella ToothComedian Simon Brodkin at the Half Moon Putney by Stella Tooth
Mixed media on paper
50 x 60 x 0.5cm mounted

Comedian Simon Brodkin original artwork by Stella Tooth on music tees

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