12 Surprising Facts About Father's Day

Sviatlana Barchan/iStock via Getty Images
Sviatlana Barchan/iStock via Getty Images

On Sunday, June 21, dads across the United States will be showered with neckties, tool sets, and gift cards as we celebrate Father’s Day. Though it’s something we can count on celebrating every time the third Sunday in June rolls around, the holiday didn't always have the public support it deserved. In fact, for decades it looked as if a day dedicated to the influential and hard-working fathers in our lives would toil in relative obscurity. Read on to learn about the tragic origins and eventual nationwide acceptance of this beloved holiday.

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 Father's Day.

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. That Father’s Day takes place on the third Sunday in June just 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 Father’s Day 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 making Mother’s Day and Father’s Day separate holidays.

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 Father’s Day before the federal government did.

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, Father’s Day is 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 $17 billion on Father’s Day gifts.

All those barbecue accessories, coffee mugs, and screwdriver sets add up: Americans are expected to spend approximately $17 billion - https://nrf.com/insights/holiday-and-seasonal-trends/fathers-day/fathers-day-data-center
- on gifts in 2020 for Father’s Day. Personal care products will make up the bulk of these gifts (a total of 25 percent), with home and gardening items and tools and appliances each accounting for 21 percent of planned purchases.

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.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

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Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

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Instant Pot/Amazon

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- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

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Roomba/Amazon

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Sony

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Microsoft/Amazon

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Apple/Amazon

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Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?

Elsa, Getty Images
Elsa, Getty Images

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team was founded in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions will host the Houston Texans.

How 'bout them Cowboys?

The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Washington Football Team on Thursday.

WHat's with the night game?

In 2006, because six-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Pittsburgh Steelers will welcome the Baltimore Ravens.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.