Where does Father’s Day originate from?

In New Zealand we have celebrated Father’s Day since at least 1929 when it was first observed in a service at St Matthews Church in Auckland, following the tradition of a Mother’s Day service which had already been established.

The United States is often referenced as the place where Father’s Day was first observed on 19 June, 1910 when a Father’s Day celebration was held in Spokane, Washington. The idea was proposed by Sonora Dodd who wanted to see fathers celebrated in the same way as mothers. Sonora’s father was a single parent, and a veteran of the American Civil War, who had raised his six children in Spokane. The idea was firmly cemented in the country’s calendar when, in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honouring fathers and designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. In 1972, the day was made a permanent holiday.

However, the tradition dates to much earlier times with Catholic countries in Europe celebrating fatherhood and paternal bonds on Saint Joseph’s Day since the Middle Ages. That celebration was then brought to Latin America by the Spanish and Portuguese which helps to explain why those countries celebrate Father’s Day on 19 March each year.


Why do we celebrate Father’s Day on different dates?

There’s no real answer to that. But it’s interesting to note the origins of a couple:

  • In Taiwan, Father’s Day is celebrated on 8 August. The number 8 in Chinese is “bā”. The pronunciation is similar to the word for father. This is why Father’s Day is celebrated on the 8th day of the 8th month also known as the “Day of Bābā”.
  • In Thailand, Father’s Day is celebrated on 5 December. This date is the birthday of the former King of Thailand, King Bhumibol. Even following his death and with King Rama IX on the throne, the date was kept in homage to King Bhumibol.
  • In Germany, Father’s Day is celebrated on Ascension Day which is 40 days after Easter.
  • For most traditionally Catholic countries, Father’s Day is still celebrated on 19 March (Saint Joseph’s Day).

For those in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, we all celebrate Father’s Day on the first Sunday in September. Why? Unfortunately the only explanation we can find is that it was driven by retailers with September being identified as an otherwise “quieter” time of year!

Nevertheless, all those father figures in our lives are important and should be celebrated every day of the year but it’s always nice to have a special day on which we can make sure they know just how special they are.

Happy Father’s Day!


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