Fathers’ Day history and chronicling our dads’ past

honouring dads on fathers day

Every year millions of people around the world celebrate Fathers’ Day. Nothing can deter us from the honouring and thanking our dad, not even the coronavirus pandemic. While Fathers’ Day will undoubtedly look different for many Australians this year because of social distancing rules and lockdowns, we will still indulge our fathers by showering them with expressions of love and of course, gifts.

While it is crucial we pay homage to our fathers for their unconditional love and the countless sacrifices they made for us; this did not always happen. You may ask, “When did Father’s Day start? And how?” With a long and controversial history, we look at its path and how it came to be the festive occasion we know today.

The Origin of Fathers’ Day

Mothers’ Day was first to come about, with some people postulating it dates back to the 1860s. The American government declared it a national day in 1914 and this paved the way for Fathers’ Day.

Fathers’ Day’s humble origin was a sermon in a church in West Virginia in 1908, commemorating 362 men who lost their lives to a coal mining explosion. This occasion became the first American event to honour fathers, but the ceremony began and ended in the four walls of the small church.

After a year, however, a young woman named Sonora Smart Dodd was determined to establish Fathers’ Day as a national celebration. Raised by a single father because of her mother’s early death, Dodd strongly believed we should celebrate fathers as much as mothers. So she started lobbying the US Government. Her advocacy bore fruit when Fathers’ Day was first celebrated in Washington State on June 19, 1910.

Individual American states gradually adopted the celebration. In 1972, President Richard Nixon proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Fathers’ Day in the United States — it quickly became an overnight sensation, prompting other countries to follow suit. 

Fathers’ Day Celebrations in Australia

Today, Australia is no different. Families all over the country recognise the significance of honouring fathers, but the celebration is on a different date to the rest of the world. Instead of celebrating in June in line with most other countries, Australians celebrate Fathers’ Day on the first Sunday of September.

Fathers’ Day in Australia marks the end of winter’s hibernation and the start of festivities reaching to Christmas and beyond. By celebrating Fathers’ Day in September at the first sign of warmer spring weather, families can get outdoors and enjoy the types of activities many dads love like barbeques, fishing and swimming. 

Why It Still Matters

Although the lead-up to the modern celebration of Fathers’ Day involves an avalanche of marketing that offends some people, the spirit of honouring and thanking dads is what matters most. Australian families continue to celebrate with love and zeal despite the commercialisation accompanying Fathers’ Day.

The goal remains to enable fathers and father figures to receive the affection and appreciation they deserve. Millions of Australian families indulge their dad, spending glorious days revelling in the sunshine at parks and beaches or hosting feasts at home or in cafes and restaurants. Children also post heartfelt messages on social media about their dads on Fathers’ Day, letting the world know they have the best father in the world! And of course, we pamper our dads with gifts of all shapes and sizes including socks, ties and undies—some of them with a personal moniker!

‘Why,’ you might ask? The answer is simple—love and appreciation. No amount of marketing can destroy the spirit of Fathers’ Day. As a holiday that began out of intense love for her father, Dodds reminds us of the pivotal role of fathers in our lives. It is only right to continue celebrating dads on their special day and throughout the year.

Finding the perfect Fathers’ Day gift

If you’re hunting for the perfect Fathers’ Day gift, why not allow us to help? The gift of a memoir enables you to enshrine your dad’s life in the pages of history. He deserves to be remembered for many years to come, so celebrate his memory today by preserving his distinctive moments. His story is truly worth telling. 

Fathers’ Day is a special occasion to honour your dad and thank him for all he has done for you. Give him a unique gift this year by presenting him with a memoir of one of his fondest memories, or a voucher for him to avail of professional services to do the writing for him.

The professional storytellers at Life Stories Australia believe everyone’s life story is worth telling. They can turn stories into a beautiful hardcover book or video so your dad’s memories will last forever. Through interviews, photographs, videos and archives, we can produce a memoir for you or someone special. Get in touch with us today for details.

Gabriella Kelly-Davies

Founder, Share your life story

Vice-President Life Stories Australia