Each year, the third Sunday in June we celebrate fathers and the countless other men who have stepped into the role of father. While it may feel as if Father’s Day has been around forever, it didn’t become a nationally recognized holiday in the United States until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed Joint Resolution 187 into law.
Many thank Sonora Smart Dodd for making Father’s Day happen. In 1909, while attending a Mother’s Day sermon in church, Dodd felt fathers were equally deserving of praise. To honor her own father, a Civil War veteran and widower who raised six children alone, Dodd petitioned for a Father’s Day on June 5th (the anniversary of her father’s death).
The celebration was deferred to the third Sunday in June. Another account says Grace Golden Clayton came up with the idea for a Father’s Day in 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia. Clayton was inspired to celebrate fathers after 361 local men perished in a deadly mine explosion. Clayton brought the idea up to the minister of her local church.
Historians say that Father’s Day may even be a much older idea. St. Joseph’s Day, which was celebrated each year on March 19 in Catholic nations of Europe since the medieval era, and later elsewhere around the world, commemorates Joseph, the husband of Mary and father figure to Jesus. It was said that Joseph should be held up as the ideal example of fatherhood. The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates St. Joseph’s Day on July 20. In the Orthodox Christian Church, the second Sunday before the Nativity is celebrated as the Sunday of the Forefathers — celebrating all of Jesus’ male ancestors, with an emphasis on Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish faith.