Made up day?
When someone mentions Fathers’ Day a chorus of, ‘made up day’ and ‘invented by greeting card companies’ may follow! So is Fathers’ Day really just the product of a boardroom meeting at Hallmark or Clintons?
There is evidence that a Babylonian boy named Elmesu, carved some sort of greeting on a clay tablet 4000 years ago wishing his father health and long life, but that’s pretty much it for the evidence until about 100 years ago.
The most common theory about modern Fathers’ Day is that it originated in the US, and with one particular lady, a Mrs. Sonora Louise Smart Dodd. She felt that just as we dedicate a special day to mothers, so we should do the same for fathers. It meant a lot to her, because she and her siblings were raised in a loving manner by her own father after her mother died in childbirth.
So she began a campaign, and the first Fathers’ Day was held on June 19th (her father’s birthday) in 1910. It grew in popularity and in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation declaring that the third Sunday in June would be Fathers’ Day.
Leap across the Atlantic
Now the waters become murky. How did Fathers’ Day make the leap across the Atlantic? No-one seems to know, but it’s likely that – in the manner of other American traditions – it gradually seeped into the British consciousness. Greetings cards manufacturers definitely played their part though. Never ones to miss a trick, they began producing cards and we bought them. It seems that in the UK, Fathers’ Day really took off in the 1970s but, unlike in the US, it’s never been declared an ‘official’ day.
Still, as traditions go it’s a nice one. The role of dads has changed a lot in a generation. Most now take on a substantial amount of child care and are much more hands-on than their own dads were. Research shows that dads who are involved in day-to-day childcare are key figures in helping their children develop good self-esteem and self-confidence. Their rough-play helps children learn a sense of control and independence.