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

iStock
iStock

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.

10,000 People Gathered at Stonehenge to Welcome the Summer Solstice

Finnbarr Webster, Getty Images
Finnbarr Webster, Getty Images

There are plenty of reasons to welcome the start of summer. Today, people visiting Stonehenge took that celebration to a whole new level.

The BBC reported that an estimated 10,000 people made the pilgrimage to the 5000-year-old site to partake in summer solstice festivities. "Stonehenge was built to align with the Sun, and to Neolithic people, the skies were arguably as important as the surrounding landscape," Susan Greaney, a senior historian at English Heritage, said in a statement. "At solstice we remember the changing daylight hours, but the changing seasons, the cycles of the Moon, and movements of the Sun are likely to have underpinned many practical spiritual aspects of Neolithic life."

These spiritual aspects are just one of the many fascinating facts about the summer solstice; the day is an extremely old calendar event recognized by ancient cultures across the globe. They include the Druids and other pagans, whose tradition of observing the solstice at Stonehenge has long been upheld by modern revelers.

Scientifically speaking, Stonehenge is an optimal viewing place for the solstice due to its structure. According to TIME, the site’s architects appeared to have kept both the summer and winter solstices in mind during its construction, as the positions of the stones are specifically tuned to complement the sky on both occasions.

The solstices were sacred to the pagans, whose modern-day followers continue to honor their rituals. Pagans in particular refer to the day as Litha, and mark it with activities such as meditation, fire rites, and outdoor yoga.

“What you’re celebrating on a mystical level is that you’re looking at light at its strongest," Frank Somers, a member of the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids, said in 2014. "It represents things like the triumph of the king, the power of light over darkness, and just life—life at its fullest."

Those who were unable to make the journey can head over to the Stonehenge Skyscape project's website, where English Heritage’s interactive live feed fully captured the experience.

11 Patriotic Products to Celebrate the Fourth of July

Amazon
Amazon

Whether you’ll be lounging by the beach or grilling in your backyard this Independence Day, don’t forget to show off your all-American spirit with a little swag. Here are 11 products to help you celebrate Fourth of July—all of which would pair nicely with your collection of presidential bobbleheads.

1. Declaration Of Independence Signatures Mug; $15

Mug decorated with the signatures from the Declaration of Independence.
CafePress, Amazon

The names of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence are on display on this ceramic coffee mug. Studying the signatures each morning might inspire you to perfect your own John Hancock.

Find it: Amazon

2. Stars And Stripes Cufflinks; $55

Cufflinks with images of stars and stripes on them

Cufflinks Inc., Nordstrom

Brighten up your wardrobe with a splash of American pride. One half of this cufflinks set is striped red and white and the other is blue and spangled with stars. Together they make a patriotic accent piece.

Find it: Nordstrom

3. Fireworks Light Show Projector; $41

Portable fireworks light projector.
Uncle Milton, Amazon

If you want a low-hazard Fourth of July that still delivers thrills, consider getting a light show projector. When it’s pointed at a wall, the device displays vibrant fireworks animations accompanied by realistic sound effects. And it works indoors, so you can count on your Independence Day party ending with a light show no matter the weather forecast. (There's also a Disney version available for just $20.)

Find it: Amazon

4. Inflatable Cooler; $14

Inflatable American flag cooler filled with ice and drinks.
Fun Express, Amazon

When preparing for a picnic or barbecue this Fourth of July, don’t bother breaking out your tiny roll-away cooler. This 54-by-28-inch inflatable trough holds enough bottles and cans to keep your party going well past sunset. Once the cooler has been drained and deflated, it folds neatly for easy storage.

Find it: Amazon

5. American Trivia Cards; $15

Even players who paid attention in American history class might find this game challenging. Each box comes with 150 cards of United States trivia. Some questions—like what was the first state to grant women the right to vote—highlight important moments in our nation’s history. Others—like how many columns the Lincoln Memorial features—are a little more random.

Find it: UncommonGoods

6. U.S. Navy Blanket; $200

The U.S. military has been going to Faribault Woolen Mill Co. for its blankets for over 100 years. This one is crafted from 100 percent wool and weighs 3.5 pounds. The design is inspired by the blankets supplied on Navy ships—and if it’s tough enough for the Navy, you can bet it will withstand a Fourth of July picnic. We like the gray version, but it comes in several different styles and colors.

Find it: Faribault Woolen Mill Co.

7. American Flag Cornhole; $90

Two American flag cornhole boards with bean bags.
GoSports, Amazon

Baseball faces some stiff competition from cornhole for the title of No. 1 American pastime. This lawn set includes four blue bean bags, four red bean bags, and two boards decorated to resemble the American flag.

Find it: Amazon

8. U.S. Map Cutting Board; $20

Wooden cutting board in the shape of the U.S. map.
Totally Bamboo, Amazon

This 100 percent bamboo board eschews the traditional rectangle shape in favor of the outline of the American mainland. You can either keep it in the kitchen and use it as a cutting board or bring it out to the party as a serving platter for fruits, cheeses, and other hors d'oeuvres.

Find it: Amazon

9. Boston Tea Party Tea Sampler; $15

Six piles of loose-leaf tea.
Solstice Tea Traders, Amazon

A sip of one of the teas in this sampler will put you in touch with your inner revolutionary. Each of the six loose-leaf varieties—bohea black tea, oolong, congou black tea, souchong, singlo, and hyson—was among those tossed over the sides of British ships during the Boston Party. Whether you drink the tea or chuck it into the nearest harbor is up to you. (If you're looking for something to put on display, UncommonGoods also sells a slightly pricier, more elegant option with five teas.)

Find it: Amazon

10. State Map Prints; $27 and Up

A poster featuring a colorful map of Wisconsin
Bri Buckley, Society6

These unique prints by Bri Buckley highlight the beauty of each U.S. state in vibrant color. Each state map is available in both a modern and a vintage style, and like most Society6 art, the design is also available on tapestries, shirts, pillows, tote bags, and more.

Find it: Society6

11. Bald Eagle Pool Float; $15

A man and a woman ride a bald eagle pool float
Swimline, Amazon

Cool down the patriotic way this Fourth of July. This massive 8-foot-by-6-foot bald eagle pool float can fit up to two people comfortably, and will look great floating around your pool during your backyard barbecue.

Find it: Amazon

A version of this article first ran in 2017. It has been updated for 2019.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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