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12 Things You Probably Don't Know About Father's Day

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On Sunday, June 18, dads across the United States are going to be showered with neckties, toolsets, and gift cards as we celebrate Father’s Day. Though it’s something we can count on celebrating every third Sunday in June, the holiday didn't always have the public support it deserved—for decades it looked like a day dedicated to the influential and hard-working fathers in our lives would toil in relative obscurity. Check out the tragic origins and eventual nationwide acceptance of this beloved holiday as we look at 12 things you probably didn't know about Father’s Day.

1. THE FIRST MODERN FATHER'S DAY WAS ROOTED IN TRAGEDY.

On July 5, 1908—the same year that Mother's Day is credited as beginning—a small church in West Virginia held the first public event meant to specifically honor the fathers of their community. The day was held in remembrance of the 362 men who were killed the previous December in a mining explosion at the Fairmont Coal Company. Though this specific day did not transform into an annual tradition in the town, it did set a precedent of reserving a day for dads everywhere.

2. WASHINGTON WAS THE FIRST STATE TO CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAY.

In 1909, Spokane resident Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at her local church when she had the idea to try and establish a similar day to honor the hard-working fathers of the community. Dodd was the daughter of a widower and Civil War veteran named William Jackson Smart, who raised six children on his own after his wife died during childbirth.

She contacted local church groups, government officials, YMCAs, businesses, and other official entities, hoping to gather the community in unison to recognize fathers around the state of Washington. The campaign Dodd embarked upon would eventually culminate in the first statewide Father’s Day celebration in 1910.

3. THE THIRD SUNDAY IN JUNE HAPPENED BY ACCIDENT.

While Father’s Day always takes place on the third Sunday of June now, that date was actually a compromise after the original turned out to be unrealistic. Dodd’s goal was for the holiday to be observed on June 5 to land on her father’s birthday, but when the mayor of Spokane and local churches asked for more time to prepare for all the festivities involved, it was moved to the third Sunday in June where it remains today. Officially, the first Father’s Day celebration took place on June 19, 1910.

4. ROSES WERE ORIGINALLY A BIG PART OF THE CELEBRATION.

That first Father’s Day included a church service where daughters would hand red roses to their fathers during the mass. The roses were also pinned onto the clothing of children to further honor their fathers—red roses for a still-living father and a white rose for the deceased. Dodd also brought roses and gifts to any father in the community who was unable to make it to the service. This gave birth to the now-nearly-forgotten tradition of roses as the customary flower of Father’s Day.

5. NOT EVERYONE WAS HAPPY WITH THE IDEA OF SEPARATE HOLIDAYS FOR PARENTS.

In the 1920s and '30s, there was a movement to get rid of Mother's Day and the burgeoning Father's Day celebrations and instead join the two holidays as a unified Parents' Day. Robert Spero, a philanthropist and children’s radio entertainer, saw the holidays as a "division of respect and affection" for parents, especially during a time when Father's Day hadn’t officially been recognized nationwide.

"We should all have love for dad and mother every day, but Parents' Day on the second Sunday in May is a reminder that both parents should be loved and respected together," Spero told The New York Times in 1931. The movement died out in the '40s, but if it had gone through, we'd all be celebrating Parents' Day every year with the slogan, "A kiss for mother, a hug for dad."

6. PRESIDENTS RECOGNIZED IT, BUT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DIDN'T.

The holiday soon broke through, leaving the exclusivity of Washington State and making its way to other regions across the country. Woodrow Wilson commemorated it by unfurling an American flag in Spokane by way of a special telegraph all the way from Washington, D.C. in 1916. Progress on the holiday was slowed, though, when Wilson—who had previously signed a proclamation to recognize Mother's Day as a national holiday—never signed the same paperwork for Father's Day.

Presidents still continued to recognize a day for fathers, just not in an official way from the federal government. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged people to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations" and recommended that states recognize Father's Day. But in Silent Cal’s famous laissez-faire way, he didn’t impose anything official.

Urging people to do something doesn't quite carry the same weight as a president's signature, and Father's Day remained an unofficial holiday left up to individual states and communities for the next few decades.

7. FATHER’S DAY WASN'T OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED AS A NATIONAL HOLIDAY UNTIL 1972.

It took until 1966 for President Lyndon Johnson to make a nationwide proclamation endorsing Father’s Day across the country. In his proclamation, Johnson wrote that on June 19, 1966, "I invite State and local governments to cooperate in the observance of that day; and I urge all our people to give public and private expression to the love and gratitude which they bear for their fathers."

Nowhere in Johnson's proclamation did it say anything about what would happen on Father's Day the next year, though, and the corresponding Joint Resolution specified "the third Sunday in June of 1966.". It wasn't until President Richard Nixon signed Public Law 92-278 that Father's Day was permanently recognized by the federal government.

8. IN EUROPE, FATHER'S DAY HAS ITS ROOTS IN THE MIDDLE AGES.

For Catholics in Europe, the idea of Father's Day stretches back to feasts established in the Middle Ages to honor Saint Joseph on March 19. The celebration was prevalent in countries like Spain, France, and Italy, and as it focused on Joseph—the foster father of Jesus—it eventually turned into a day to honor the institution of fatherhood in general. Though many European countries have adopted a more secular observance of Father's Day, some still uphold the tradition of linking it to Saint Joseph’s Day.

9. FOR THE FRENCH, IT'S ALL ABOUT LIGHTERS.

The traditional feasts and celebrations around Saint Joseph began to fade in 20th century Europe, especially in the years after World War II, so to reignite consumer interest in spending money on dear ol’ dad, a French lighter company called Flaminaire created a new Father's Day in 1949 to help sell their products. With the help of an expansive ad campaign, the company drummed up brand awareness in the guise of a holiday, and Father's Day (called Fête des Pères) has been observed in France ever since.

10. AMERICANS ARE EXPECTED TO SPEND MORE THAN $15 BILLION ON GIFTS.

All those barbecue accessories, coffee mugs, and screwdriver sets add up: Americans spent $14.3 billion on gifts in 2016 for Father’s Day, and the estimate for 2017 is a record $15.5 billion. This estimate includes $800 million on tools and appliances, $2.2 billion on apparel (including the ubiquitous necktie), and $3.3 billion on "special outings," such as dinner or concert tickets.

11. THAT'S STILL FAR LESS THAN THEY SPEND ON MOM.

Though Father's Day is big business in the commercial marketplace, it still exists in the shadow of mom. In 2017, the National Retail Federation reported that Americans will spend upwards of $23.6 billion on Mother's Day gifts like flowers, apparel, dinner, and spa days.

12. IT'S A BIG DAY FOR THE HUMBLE GREETING CARD.

Father's Day means big business for the greeting card industry. The holiday is the fourth most popular day for exchanging cards, with approximately 72 million flying off shelves. Hallmark—which has been producing Father's Day cards since the early 1920s—boasts more than 800 different designs for dad, with humor cards accounting for 25 percent of the cards sold. The National Retail Federation estimates that cards account for 64.3 percent of all Father’s Day gifts—whether the person honors dad only with a card or includes it with a lager gift. Hallmark is even dipping its toe into the future of sentimentality with a virtual reality Father’s Day card for 2017.

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Move Over, Hygge: Còsagach Is How You Get Cozy In Scotland
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Hygge, a concept related to the warm, contented feeling of being indoors during wintertime, originated in Denmark. But Scotland has made it clear that Danes don’t have a monopoly on coziness. As The Scotsman reports, VisitScotland—the country's national tourism agency—is reviving Còsagach, an old Gaelic term that could unseat the hygge trend this season.

Còsagach, like hygge, is the sensation you get when you’re snug, sheltered, and cozy. According to VisitScotland, Scotland is a popular destination for tourists looking to unwind, and the organization predicts that Còsagach will be a hot trend with visitors in 2018.

“It’s no secret that Scotland can have, at times, rather harsh and ferocious weather,” the trend forecast from the company’s insight department [PDF] notes. “In the winter when the storms rage and the waves crash against the rocks, there is nothing more satisfying than being curled up in front of the fire, book and hot toddy in hand, listening to the weather outside.”

However, you don’t need to be under a blanket at home to properly experience Còsagach. The comforting feeling can be found almost anywhere—at a restaurant, ski resort, or, in true Scottish tradition, a pub. And though it is a great antidote to winter blues, VisitScotland emphasizes that it’s not exclusive to any one season.

Even if you aren’t planning a trip to Scotland in the near future, there are ways to incorporate Còsagach into your routine. Try repurposing some of the activities associated with hygge—just don’t tell your Scottish friends where you got your inspiration.

[h/t The Scotsman]

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25 Questions about Hanukkah, Answered!
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From proper spellings and whether to call it a menorah or hanukkiah, to how to celebrate in space and where you can find a competitive dreidel game, we have the answers to 25 pressing questions about the Festival of Lights.

1. HOW DO YOU SPELL IT?

"Happy Hanukkah" spelled with blocks.
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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, variant spellings of the celebration include: Chanucha, Hanuca, Hanucka, Khanukah, and most every other combination imaginable, with the most common spellings today being Hanukkah and Chanukah. The reason for all the spellings is because Hanukkah isn't a native English word—it's not even from a language that uses the Latin alphabet.

When converting between alphabets, there is a choice whether to preserve the pronunciation or the spelling, and sometimes the results don't match [PDF]. In the case of Hanukkah and Chanukah, Hanukkah represents the spelling, while Chanukah more closely represents the original pronunciation, with a Ch like the Scottish pronunciation of loch.

2. WHAT DOES IT COMMEMORATE?

Wood engraving from the 19th century.
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The story is that in the second century BCE Judea was under the rule of the Seleucid Empire. The Empire began forcing Jews to convert to Greek culture and religion, resulting in the Maccabee Revolt. Eventually the Maccabees emerged victorious and needed to rededicate the Temple and light the menorah. But there was a problem: They could only find one jug of oil that was still pure, which was enough for one day. Miraculously the oil lasted for eight days, which was enough time to get new oil. But historians still debate certain parts, such as how much of the Maccabee revolt was over Hellenization versus a power struggle between different factions of Judaism, and even when the story of the oil appeared in the record.

3. ON WHAT DATE DOES HANUKKAH START?

Calendar with December 12 noted as first day of Hanukkah.
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According to the Gregorian calendar, in 2017 Hanukkah will begin on the evening of December 12, while in 2018 it begins on the evening of December 3 and in 2019 on December 22. The first day can fall anywhere from November 27 to as late as December 26.

4. WHY DOES IT ALWAYS CHANGE DATES?

Star of David decorations.
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It changes dates for the same reason that there are so many spellings—conversion issues. In the Hebrew calendar the first day of Hanukkah takes place on the 25th of Kislev each year. But unlike the solar Gregorian calendar, the Hebrew calendar is lunisolar, meaning that the Gregorian and Hebrew calendars don't perfectly correspond to each other. So while followers of the Gregorian calendar see Hanukkah moving around, to a follower of the Hebrew calendar, dates like Christmas move around—being celebrated on 7th of Tevet one year, and the 17th of Tevet the next.

5. HOW MANY ARMS SHOULD A MENORAH HAVE?

A stone menorah outside the knesset.

Benjamin, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This isn't as straightforward a question as it may appear. Outside the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) is a statue of a menorah with only seven arms. This represents the menorah of the Temple, which had seven arms and has long been one of the symbols of Judaism. And Hanukkah's miracle of the oil made use of the seven branched version.

6. SO HOW DID THE HANUKKAH VERSION APPEAR?

Menorah above
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There are multiple hypotheses for the nine-branched menorah used for Hanukkah celebrations. One is that it was forbidden to make replicas of the seven-branched Temple menorah, so adding extra arms got around that prohibition. The other possibility is that the practicalities of an eight day celebration lent itself to a nine-branched menorah.

7. SHOULD I ACTUALLY CALL IT A MENORAH THEN?

Menorah and Star of David.
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According to historian Steven Fine, the Hanukkah fixture and many other types of lighting were all called menorahs until the late 19th century, when Hemda Ben Yehuda, the wife of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who was the driving force behind the reemergence of Hebrew as a language, decided that the Hanukkah lamp needed to be distinguished from the seven-branched menorahs that were starting to become widespread. Eventually, they came across a Balkan word, hanukkiah, to describe the lamp.

Today, some people maintain that menorah is fine to describe the Hanukkah candelabra, while others maintain that it should be referred to as a hanukkiah or chanukiah.

8. WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE MIDDLE CANDLE?

Close-up of a menorah.
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On a standard hanukkiah, one of the candles is raised, lowered, or otherwise separated from the other eight. This candle is called the shamash and is considered distinct from the main candles (in other words, on the first night of Hanukkah there are actually two candles lit—the first candle and the shamash). It serves multiple purposes, such as being used to light the other candles of the hanukkiah. The extra candle is also important because it's forbidden to use the main Hanukkah lights for non-religious purposes like reading or to derive a benefit from them. Part of the purpose of the shamash is to offload any benefit gained onto a non-important candle (although some Jews have other lights available to avoid even the shamash light).

9. WHAT DOES A TRADITIONAL HANUKKAH CELEBRATION ENTAIL?

Family lighting a hanukkiah.
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While there are regional and even family differences as to specifics, one of the most common orders of events is that the shamash is lit, and then blessings, or brachot, are recited. On the first night there are three blessings, including the Shehecheyanu, which is only recited on the first night, meaning the other nights have two blessings. Following the brachot the candles are lit, and then traditionally Hanerot Halalu is recited and songs are sung.

10. HOW DO I LOAD AND LIGHT THE HANUKKIAH?

Rabbi lighting a hanukkiah.
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According to the Talmud, this was a debate between two of the major sages of first century BCE Judaism, Hillel and Shammai, and their schools of thought Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai. Hillel argued that on the first night, only one light should be lit (not including the shamash), and then on the second night two lights, and so on until eight lights are lit on the eighth day. Shammai argued for the reverse; on the first night eight lights should be lit, decreasing by one until the last day. Each side backed up their argument with theological evidence (Shammai compared it to the bulls of the Festival of Succot, where the sacrificed bulls decreased by one each day, while Hillel argued that holiness should increase, not decrease). A vote was held and Hillel’s thought won and is the common practice today.

So on the first day, one candle is placed on the rightmost holder on the hanukkiah and lit. On the second day, a candle is placed in the rightmost holder and then another candle in the second rightmost holder. When it comes to lighting, the order is reversed. After lighting the shamash, the newest candle is lit first and then the previous candle, and so on. So the hanukkiah is loaded right to left, but lit left to right.

11. DOES IT HAVE TO BE CANDLES?

A battery-operated menorah.
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No. In fact, olive oil (with cotton wicks) is considered the ideal fuel as that is likely the oil used in the original miracle. Beyond that, beeswax candles and many other candles and oils are considered perfectly acceptable for use in a hanukkiah, as long as the light doesn't flicker. Where the debate occurs is in electric hanukkiahs. Some view them as a fine update on the tradition, especially for people who can't have or don't want open flames. According to Chabad.org though, there are issues. One of the major ones is that "fuel" (electricity) gets continually added, while one of the requirements of the lighting is that the required fuel needs to be present at the beginning, although they concede that battery-powered hanukkiahs likely fulfill this requirement. There are also issues with how the light is generated, so many people say to use electric hanukkiahs only for display purposes or if a traditional hanukkiah isn't possible.

12. WHAT HAPPENS ON SHABBAT?

Shabbat candles and bread.
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Since Hanukkah ranges over eight days, it will inevitably overlap with the Shabbat (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday), which has its own lighting tradition. In that situation, the Hanukkah candles should be lit first, as it is forbidden to light candles after the Shabbat candles are lit and the blessings said. But to ensure that the candles last at least half an hour after dark, special candles are recommended.

13. HOW TRADITIONAL ARE LATKES?

Plate of latkes.
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Not as traditional as one might think. Potatoes are native to South America and weren't encountered by Europeans until the 16th century. Before then, it's thought that latkes were based on an Italian ricotta pancake. Eventually the potato came to dominate, possibly thanks to the available frying oil. One theory for the change is that in Eastern Europe the pancakes were fried in chicken fat as opposed to a plant oils. As dietary laws prohibit Jews from mixing meat and dairy, the ricotta had to go, likely in favor of things like buckwheat. Meanwhile, another theory (not mutually exclusive) says that as crops failed in Eastern Europe in the mid-19th century, potatoes became a popular replacement crop. Come Hanukkah, people fried what was available to them.

14. HOW DID CHEESE ALWAYS END UP ON THE MENU?

Wine and cheese plate.
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The 16th century Rabbi Moses Isserles wrote "There are those who say to eat cheese on Hanukkah because the miracle was done through milk, which Judith fed the enemy."

The Judith in question was a beautiful widow in the town of Bethulia. As the town was under siege, the story goes, she went into the enemy camp and fed the enemy commander salty cheese to get him thirsty, then wine to get him drunk. After he got suitably drunk Judith cut off his head and ended the siege of the town.

According to NPR, despite the events of the Judith story taking place centuries before Hanukkah, medieval Jews began conflating the two, turning Judith into a close relation of Judah Maccabee. Judith's close association with cheese made it a natural Hanukkah dish.

15. WHY SO MANY FRIED FOODS?

Latkes frying in a pan.
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Fried foods are a very traditional part of the Hanukkah celebration for Jews around the world, and this is for a very simple reason—to recognize the miracle of oil.

16. WHAT OTHER TRADITIONAL FOODS SHOULD I MAKE FOR HANUKKAH?

Plate of sufganiyot.
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Gil Marks's Encyclopedia of Jewish Food contains several other traditional Hanukkah foods from all over the world. These include zangula, a type of fried batter from North Africa; sefengor kindel, an Algerian plum filled fried dough; and even a Yemeni dish called laches djezar, which Marks describes as a carrot sauté.

17. WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND THE DREIDEL?

Four dreidels.
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The dreidel is a traditional spinning top game. The top has four sides each with a letter on it, and depending which side comes up after a spin, the player has to do nothing, put a piece into a pot, or get some or all of the pot. The traditional story is that the letters represent the phrase nes gadol haya sham or "a great miracle happened there," in reference to the Hanukkah miracle of the oil. Some versions go further, saying that the top was a tool persecuted Jews used to study the Torah. But modern historians tend to doubt this story, suggesting that it traces to a top game called teetotum or just totum. These tops traditionally had the letters of the action (Take all, take Half, Nothing, and Put) and when this was adapted for the Hebrew alphabet, the current dreidel appeared.

18. ARE THERE UNNECESSARILY COMPETITIVE DREIDEL LEAGUES?

Child spinning a dreidel.
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You bet: Major League Dreidel. In 2008, NPR explained that the contest, which featured such athletes as Tasmanian Dreidel and Jewbacca, wasn't the same as the traditional game. Instead, "Spinners compete on how long their dreidel spins on progressively smaller surfaces." And the puns don't stop at the player names: their "court" is referred to as the "Spinagogue," also the name of their tabletop game. This year, the Major League Dreidel championship will be held in Brooklyn on December 15, the fourth night of Hanukkah.

19. WHERE DID HANUKKAH GELT COME FROM?

Bag of chocolate gelt.
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There are several different origin stories for Hanukkah gelt, the foil wrapped chocolate coins of every Hanukkah celebration. One version says that it derives from the coinage that the Maccabees minted after independence. Another story relates it to the word hinnukh, or education. This hypothesis says that due to the pronunciation and possible etymological relation between hinnukh and Hanukkah, coins were given to teachers and students at that time of year. There are other possibilities, but these were all real coins. According to The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, the chocolate may have come from an entirely different holiday figure: Santa Claus. The books says that in Belgium and the Netherlands people celebrated St. Nicholas' feast day on December 6 by giving both chocolate and real coins to students and children, although they caution "it would be a mistake to draw too close a connection between this Christian tradition and Chanukah gelt." No matter what, the first Hanukkah chocolate gelt is believed to have been from a chocolatier in the 1920s.

20. WHY ARE THE COLORS BLUE AND WHITE?

Israeli flag.
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Likely because of the Israeli flag. In the 19th century, the Jewish poet Ludwig August von Frankl wrote that "blue and white are the colors of Judah," likely basing the assertion on the Jewish prayer shawl the tallit. Eventually, the colors became associated with Israel and Judaism, and eventually Hanukkah.

21. WHAT'S THE TALLEST HANUKKIAH IN THE WORLD?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg attends the menorah lighting in New York City in 2013.
Getty

The largest hanukkiah in the world is generally thought to be in New York City near Central Park, which stands at 36 feet high, weighs two tons, and has been a New York fixture since 1977.

There's a reason that the hanukkiah is only 36 feet tall. That’s the generally agreed limit on how high above ground the candles are supposed to be placed, because any higher and people won't be able to look at the lights. This causes a problem for Jews living in a high floor of an apartment complex. According to New York's Lincoln Square Synagogue, people in this situation should place the hanukkiah by the front door as opposed to in the window. But they say some authorities maintain that if there are apartment buildings opposite that are clearly visible from your apartment, the window is an acceptable place for the hanukkiah.

22. HOW DO ASTRONAUTS CELEBRATE HANUKKAH?

AFP/Getty Images

In 1993, astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman went up to help fix the Hubble Space Telescope. But he wasn't going to let that ruin the Hanukkah celebrations. The mission broadcast him playing with a dreidel as he attempted to "reinterpret the rules for space flight, since there's no up or down." He then broke out a small hanukkiah, although he refrained from lighting it.

23. AND HOW ABOUT IN ANTARCTICA?

Sunset in Antarctica
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In 2015, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory published a blog post detailing how Hanukkah was celebrated at McMurdo Station. And there were problems. The first is that for safety reasons, open flames (like from a candle) are banned [PDF]. Special dispensation had to be granted for the hanukkiah that required the fire marshal to be present and it be lit in the McMurdo galley. The other issue was lighting the candles at sunset—in the Antarctic summer, there is no sunset. According to blog author Jenna Kloosterman, one person argued that they should go with New Zealand sunset, another voted for Jerusalem time, and someone else suggested United States sunset. In the end, Kloosterman says, "we just had to go with the time that the fire marshal was available, which was 7:15 p.m."

24. BUT WHAT IF YOU CROSS THE INTERNATIONAL DATELINE?

Menorah lights along a skyline.
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According to Ohr Somayach's "Ask The Rabbi," there are a few possibilities for how to handle traveling and Hanukkah (but you should consult your own Rabbi for specific cases). The first case involved someone who is traveling. Ohr Samayach recommends appointing an agent to light the hanukkiah in the traveler's home and recite the brachot when lighting both the traveler's hanukkiah and the agent's personal hanukkiah.

But if the traveler crosses the International Dateline and skips one of the nights of Hanukkah, Ohr Somayach recommends that the agent light a hanukkiah without a corresponding bracha (the singular form of brachot).

25. WHAT'S CHRISMUKKAH?

Hanging a Star of David on a Christmas tree.
Bodo Marks/AFP/Getty Images

Chrismukkah is a portmanteau of Christmas and Hanukkah introduced in 2003 on the TV show The O.C. But that wasn't the first time those two holidays were combined. In late 19th-century Germany, the term "Weihnukka" appeared, combining Hanukkah with Weihnachten, the German word for Christmas. But according to Cary Nathenson in the Journal of Jewish Identities, Weihnukka had little to do with celebrating the day, writing "The Christmas these Jews celebrated was less about the birth of Jesus Christ than it was about fitting in with neighbors. Christmas was widely seen as belonging to and defining of the German nation rather than a religious festival, and therefore celebrating the holiday was just something that 'real' Germans did, regardless of their religion."

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