We can trace celebrations of fatherhood all the way back to the fifth century. Traditionally celebrated on St. Joseph’s Day, or the Feast of St. Joseph, the day differed from March 19th to July 20th depending on the religion. The Catholic Church has had special sermons honoring fathers as far back as 1508. However, Father’s Day specifically did not come into being until much, much later.
Sonora Smart was born in 1882 in Spokane, Washington, the last child born of six when her mother passed. Her father, William Jackson Smart, bravely raised his children alone in a time when men either sent their children off to other relatives or remarried quickly. Because of her father’s love and complete devotion to his children, Sonora was determined to make a special day for fathers after seeing the success of Mother’s Day.
Sonora, a member of the then Old Centenary Presbyterian Church, went to her pastor and discussed the possibility. He thought it was a wonderful idea and quickly went to other clergymen to spread the word. Sonora had originally wanted the day to be celebrated June 5, her father’s birthday, however, the local clergy did not have time to prepare their sermons and the date was pushed. And so, on June 19, 1910, the first official Father’s Day sermon was presented.
Father’s Day was initially met with a good deal of hesitation and not a very popular idea; however, Sonora fought for her town to acknowledge and celebrate the day. It slowly grew and was more readily accepted until Sonora went off to school in the 1920s, then it practically was forgotten. When she returned home in the 1930s, she vowed this time it would stick.
With help of the manufactures of ties, tobacco pipes, and many other traditional presents for fathers, word was spreading through the country quickly with their adds. By 1938, she had the help of the Father’s Day Council which was founded in New York, they put out even more ads and promotions supporting the idea. However, the idea was still lagging support from consumers as just another gig for buying things. It wasn’t until WWII that Father’s Day was widely accepted and very popular. Father’s Day was promoted as a way to celebrate men coming home from the war and giving gifts to show love and support for their sacrifices.
After several failed attempts to become a national holiday in Congress over the years, it was in 1957 that things started to change for the better. Maine senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a Father’s Day proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers and only honoring mothers by “singling out one of the two parents”. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
Father’s Day is a very big deal for us. We look to our dads for a lot. They are the protector of the family. They check the doors and windows before going to bed, making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be. They are the ones who get up in the night when there’s a strange sound. They are the ones who do the yard work and fix the leaky roof or the pipe under the sink. They teach us how to ride our bikes or skateboards. They race us outside and teach us baseball and other sports. They teach you how to tie your shoes and celebrate with you when you can finally dress yourself. They randomly test you on a color or shape when you’re very small, keeping you on your toes. They help us with our math and science, they praise us when we do well on tests.
They take care of us when we are small and our mothers are not around. They tuck us in bed and tickle us, smiling as we laugh. They encourage our learning to crawl and help us to walk. When we fall off our bikes and assume we will never learn how to ride properly, they are there to plop us right back on the seat and tell us to try again. They teach us how to be strong and independent. They try their best to make sure we are happy and healthy, taking joy from our smiles and laughter. When we have small cuts and scrapes, they poke fun at us while they bandage us up until even we are laughing.
Dads watch the princess movies a thousand times without complaint. They decorate the Barbie house and deal with the countless stickers and glitter everywhere with only a shake of the head. They get up early in the morning and take us hunting or fishing, teaching us valuable life lessons we won’t really appreciate for years. When a strange vegetable is on our plate and we are not feeling like being good children and eating it, our dads make it a game and in no time the vegetables are gone. They help us with our chores and, sometimes, must discipline us. We may not like it, yet we know it is only because they love us we get in trouble.
Our dads are loving and caring. They are warm and comforting. They will listen to our complaints with a level head and help us through a tough time. Their presence is felt more in our lives, their strength not so silent. They are always there when we need them, yet they do not force themselves into our daily lives. They only ever want us to be our best, they push us in our attempts in life. They listen to our silly childhood dreams and are happy to help when our dreams become clearer as we get older. They encourage us to go for a better job, a high position, and are there if things don’t work out as we want them. They see us at our best and at our worst, they love us the entire time.
A dad will forever worry over his children. He will forever love you. He will never stop hugging you or worrying over you providing for yourself. A dad can never finish teaching his children practical skills or life lessons. For a daughter, a dad is stability and loving. For a son, a dad is strength and honor.
While we are still trying to get back to normal and are, mostly, able to visit one another again, it doesn’t mean we should take our visits for granted. Call your dad if you can’t visit and remind him you love him. If you are able to go see him, hug him tightly and talk about happy childhood memories. Thank him for everything that he managed to do for you, with you, growing up. Make a card or buy something silly. Spend the time wisely and make sure to laugh, he made you smile so often as a child.
Happy Father’s Day Everyone!
-Ariel Hall, Sterlington Teller