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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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15 Facts About the Summer Solstice
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It's the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, so soak up some of those direct sunrays (safely, of course) and celebrate the start of summer with these solstice facts.

1. THIS YEAR IT'S JUNE 21.

June 21 date against a yellow background
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The summer solstice always occurs between June 20 and June 22, but because the calendar doesn't exactly reflect the Earth's rotation, the precise time shifts slightly each year. For 2018, the sun will reach its greatest height in the sky for the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Time.

2. THE SUN WILL BE DIRECTLY OVERHEAD AT THE TROPIC OF CANCER.

A vintage mapped globe showing the Tropic of Cancer
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While the entire Northern Hemisphere will see its longest day of the year on the summer solstice, the sun is only directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees 27 minutes north latitude).

3. THE NAME COMES FROM THE FACT THAT THE SUN APPEARS TO STAND STILL.

Stonehenge at sunrise.
CARL DE SOUZA, AFP/Getty Images

The term "solstice" is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the sun's relative position in the sky at noon does not appear to change much during the solstice and its surrounding days. The rest of the year, the Earth's tilt on its axis—roughly 23.5 degrees—causes the sun's path in the sky to rise and fall from one day to the next.

4. THE WORLD'S BIGGEST BONFIRE WAS PART OF A SOLSTICE CELEBRATION.

A large bonfire
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Celebrations have been held in conjunction with the solstice in cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Among these is Sankthans, or "Midsummer," which is celebrated on June 24 in Scandinavian countries. In 2016, the people of Ålesund, Norway, set a world record for the tallest bonfire with their 155.5-foot celebratory bonfire.

5. THE HOT WEATHER FOLLOWS THE SUN BY A FEW WEEKS.

Colorful picture of the sun hitting ocean waves.
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You may wonder why, if the solstice is the longest day of the year—and thus gets the most sunlight—the temperature usually doesn't reach its annual peak until a month or two later. It's because water, which makes up most of the Earth's surface, has a high specific heat, meaning it takes a while to both heat up and cool down. Because of this, the Earth's temperature takes about six weeks to catch up to the sun.

6. THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE GATHER AT STONEHENGE TO CELEBRATE.

Rollo Maughfling, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and Stonehenge, conducts a Solstice celebration service for revelers as they wait for the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge on June 21, 2012, near Salisbury, England.
Rollo Maughfling, the Archdruid of Glastonbury and Stonehenge, conducts a Solstice celebration service for revelers as they wait for the midsummer sunrise at Stonehenge on June 21, 2012, near Salisbury, England.
Matt Cardy, Getty Images

People have long believed that Stonehenge was the site of ancient druid solstice celebrations because of the way the sun lines up with the stones on the winter and summer solstices. While there's no proven connection between Celtic solstice celebrations and Stonehenge, these days, thousands of modern pagans gather at the landmark to watch the sunrise on the solstice.

7. PAGANS CELEBRATE THE SOLSTICE WITH SYMBOLS OF FIRE AND WATER.

Arty image of fire and water colliding.
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In Paganism and Wicca, Midsummer is celebrated with a festival known as Litha. In ancient Europe, the festival involved rolling giant wheels lit on fire into bodies of water to symbolize the balance between fire and water.

8. IN ANCIENT EGYPT, THE SOLSTICE HERALDED THE NEW YEAR.

Stars in the night sky.
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In Ancient Egypt, the summer solstice preceded the appearance of the Sirius star, which the Egyptians believed was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile that they relied upon for agriculture. Because of this, the Egyptian calendar was set so that the start of the year coincided with the appearance of Sirius, just after the solstice.

9. THE ANCIENT CHINESE HONORED THE YIN ON THE SOLSTICE.

Yin and yang symbol on textured sand.
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In ancient China, the summer solstice was the yin to the winter solstice's yang—literally. Throughout the year, the Chinese believed, the powers of yin and yang waxed and waned in reverse proportion to each other. At the summer solstice, the influence of yang was at its height, but the celebration centered on the impending switch to yin. At the winter solstice, the opposite switch was honored.

10. IN ALASKA, THE SOLSTICE IS CELEBRATED WITH A MIDNIGHT BASEBALL GAME.

Silhouette of a baseball player.
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Each year on the summer solstice, the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks celebrate their status as the most northerly baseball team on the planet with a game that starts at 10:00 p.m. and stretches well into the following morning—without the need for artificial light—known as the Midnight Sun Game. The tradition originated in 1906 and was taken over by the Goldpanners in their first year of existence, 1960.

11. THE EARTH IS ACTUALLY AT ITS FARTHEST FROM THE SUN DURING THE SOLSTICE.

The Earth tilted on its axis.
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You might think that because the solstice occurs in summer that it means the Earth is closest to the sun in its elliptical revolution. However, the Earth is actually closest to the sun when the Northern Hemisphere experiences winter and is farthest away during the summer solstice. The warmth of summer comes exclusively from the tilt of the Earth's axis, and not from how close it is to the sun at any given time. 

12. IRONICALLY, THE SOLSTICE MARKS A DARK TIME IN SCIENCE HISTORY.

Galileo working on a book.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Legend has it that it was on the summer solstice in 1633 that Galileo was forced to recant his declaration that the Earth revolves around the Sun; even with doing so, he still spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

13. AN ALTERNATIVE CALENDAR HAD AN EXTRA MONTH NAMED AFTER THE SOLSTICE.

Pages of a calendar
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In 1902, a British railway system employee named Moses B. Cotsworth attempted to institute a new calendar system that would standardize the months into even four-week segments. To do so, he needed to add an extra month to the year. The additional month was inserted between June and July and named Sol because the summer solstice would always fall during this time. Despite Cotsworth's traveling campaign to promote his new calendar, it failed to catch on.

14. IN ANCIENT GREECE, THE SOLSTICE FESTIVAL MARKED A TIME OF SOCIAL EQUALITY.

Ancient Greek sculpture in stone.
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The Greek festival of Kronia, which honored Cronus, the god of agriculture, coincided with the solstice. The festival was distinguished from other annual feasts and celebrations in that slaves and freemen participated in the festivities as equals.

15. ANCIENT ROME HONORED THE GODDESS VESTA ON THE SOLSTICE.

Roman statue of a vestal virgin
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In Rome, midsummer coincided with the festival of Vestalia, which honored Vesta, the Roman goddess who guarded virginity and was considered the patron of the domestic sphere. On the first day of this festival, married women were allowed to enter the temple of the Vestal virgins, from which they were barred the rest of the year.

A version of this list originally ran in 2015.

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12 Things You Might Not Know About Juneteenth
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

There's more than one Independence Day in the U.S. On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and announced that slaves were now free. Since then, June 19 has been celebrated as Juneteenth across the nation. Here's what you should know about the historic event and celebration.

1. SLAVES HAD ALREADY BEEN EMANCIPATED—THEY JUST DIDN'T KNOW IT.

A page of the original Emancipation Proclamation on display from the National Archives.
A page of the original Emancipation Proclamation, from the National Archives.
ALEX WONG, AFP/Getty Images

The June 19 announcement came more than two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, so technically, from the Union's perspective, the 250,000 slaves in Texas were already free—but none of them were aware of it, and no one was in a rush to inform them.

2. THERE ARE MANY THEORIES AS TO WHY THE LAW WASN'T ENFORCED IN TEXAS.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S Grant at the close of the American Civil War, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendering to Union General Ulysses S Grant at the close of the American Civil War, at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865.
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

News traveled slowly back in those days—it took Confederate soldiers in western Texas more than two months to hear that Robert E. Lee had surrendered at Appomattox. Still, some have struggled to explain the 30-month gap between the proclamation and freedom, leading some to suspect that Texan slave owners purposely suppressed the announcement. Other theories include that the original messenger was murdered to prevent the information from being relayed or that the Federal government purposely delayed the announcement to Texas in order to get one more cotton harvest out of the slaves. But the real reason is probably that Lincoln's proclamation simply wasn't enforceable in the rebel states before the end of the war.

3. THE ANNOUNCEMENT ACTUALLY URGED FREED SLAVES TO STAY WITH THEIR FORMER OWNERS.

Photograph portrait of Civil War General Gordon Granger
National Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

General Order No. 3, as read by General Granger, said:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

4. WHAT FOLLOWED WAS KNOWN AS "THE SCATTER."

Internet Archive Book Images, Flickr

Obviously, most former slaves weren't terribly interested in staying with the people who had enslaved them, even if pay was involved. In fact, some were leaving before Granger had finished making the announcement. What followed was called "the scatter," when droves of former slaves left the state to find family members or more welcoming accommodations in northern regions.

5. NOT ALL SLAVES WERE FREED INSTANTLY.

Illustration of a white man reading something to a black slave.
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Texas is a large state, and General Granger's order (and troops to enforce it) were slow to spread. According to historian James Smallwood, many enslavers deliberately suppressed the information until after the harvest, and some beyond that. In July 1867 there were two separate reports of slaves being freed, and one report of a Texas horse thief named Alex Simpson whose slaves were only freed after his hanging in 1868.

6. FREEDOM CREATED OTHER PROBLEMS.

Mist and fog over a river
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Despite the announcement, Texas slave owners weren't too eager to part with what they felt was their property. When legally freed slaves tried to leave, many of them were beaten, lynched, or murdered. "They would catch [freed slaves] swimming across [the] Sabine River and shoot them," a former slave named Susan Merritt recalled.

7. THERE WERE LIMITED OPTIONS FOR CELEBRATING.

A monument in Houston's Emancipation Park.
A monument in Houston's Emancipation Park.
2C2KPhotography, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When freed slaves tried to celebrate the first anniversary of the announcement a year later, they were faced with a problem: Segregation laws were expanding rapidly, and there were no public places or parks they were permitted to use. So, in the 1870s, former slaves pooled together $800 and purchased 10 acres of land, which they deemed "Emancipation Park." It was the only public park and swimming pool in the Houston area that was open to African Americans until the 1950s.

8. JUNETEENTH CELEBRATIONS WANED FOR SEVERAL DECADES.

Scene from the Poor People's March in Washington, D.C. on June 19, 1968.
Scene from the Poor People's March in Washington, D.C. on June 19, 1968.
ARNOLD SACHS, AFP/Getty Images

It wasn't because people no longer wanted to celebrate freedom—but, as Slate so eloquently put it, "it's difficult to celebrate freedom when your life is defined by oppression on all sides." Juneteenth celebrations waned during the era of Jim Crow laws until the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when the Poor People's March planned by Martin Luther King Jr. was purposely scheduled to coincide with the date. The march brought Juneteenth back to the forefront, and when march participants took the celebrations back to their home states, the holiday was reborn.

9. TEXAS WAS THE FIRST STATE TO DECLARE JUNETEENTH A STATE HOLIDAY.

A statue of former Texas state representative Al Edwards, who introduced legislation to have June 19 officially declared a state holiday.
A statue of former Texas state representative Al Edwards, who introduced legislation to have June 19 officially declared a state holiday.
ניקולס, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Texas deemed the holiday worthy of statewide recognition in 1980, the first state to do so.

10. JUNETEENTH IS STILL NOT A FEDERAL HOLIDAY.

Silhouette of woman walking
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Though most states now officially recognize Juneteenth, it's still not a national holiday. As a senator, Barack Obama co-sponsored legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday, though it didn't pass then or while he was president. One supporter of the idea is 91-year-old Opal Lee—since 2016, Lee has been walking from state to state to draw attention to the cause.

11. THE JUNETEENTH FLAG IS FULL OF SYMBOLISM.

a mock-up of the Juneteenth flag
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Juneteenth flag designer L.J. Graf packed lots of meaning into her design. The colors red, white, and blue echo the American flag to symbolize that the slaves and their descendants were Americans. The star in the middle pays homage to Texas, while the bursting "new star" on the "horizon" of the red and blue fields represents a new freedom and a new people.

12. JUNETEENTH TRADITIONS VARY ACROSS THE U.S.

Juneteenth celebration participants taste the sweet potato pie entered in the cook-off contest during the festivities Richmond, California, in 2004.
Juneteenth celebration participants taste the sweet potato pie entered in the cook-off contest during the festivities Richmond, California, in 2004.
David Paul Morris, Getty Images

As the tradition of Juneteenth spread across the U.S., different localities put different spins on celebrations. In southern states, the holiday is traditionally celebrated with oral histories and readings, "red soda water" or strawberry soda, and barbecues. Some states serve up Marcus Garvey salad with red, green, and black beans, in honor of the black nationalist. Rodeos have become part of the tradition in the southwest, while contests, concerts, and parades are a common theme across the country.

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