When Is Father’s Day—and Why Do We Celebrate It?

Turns out, Mother's Day had a hand in the creation of Father's Day. Learn more interesting history behind the holiday that celebrates some of our favorite guys.

Every year, Father’s Day is celebrated by families all around the world who plan activities to celebrate the special men in their lives. Dads everywhere receive new socks, bizarre flavors of barbecue sauce, or something they actually want from our finely honed guide to Father’s Day gifts. Mothers and older children pore through Father’s Day quotes and messages for the perfect words to put in their funny card, while new fathers may find themselves looking to their own dads for guidance and dad jokes as they experience their first official Father’s Day.

While your dad probably enjoys being showered with gifts and love on this special day, the average dad had rather a different view back when the day was first created, more than 100 years ago. In fact, the history of Father’s Day is not a straight line from idea to acceptance. So what is Father’s Day, and how did it originate? We have the answers to that and everything else you’re wondering about this dad-centric day.

When is Father’s Day 2023?

Father’s Day is on Sunday, June 18 this year, which still leaves you some time to prepare your Father’s Day memes. After all, laughter is a gift! Although you’d better go shopping too. No dad can turn down a personalized Father’s Day gift. And if you’ve got little ones, Father’s Day crafts make excellent activities.

What is Father’s Day?

Father and adult son celebrating in their backyardIgor Alecsander/Getty Images

Father’s Day is a holiday that celebrates and honors fathers and their influence in our lives. You don’t solely have to honor your biological father on this holiday though—you can celebrate grandfathers, stepfathers, adoptive fathers, and others you consider father figures. Give them a nice dad gift to show how much you appreciate them!

The history of Father’s Day

The history of Mother’s Day goes back to the 1860s, and Mother’s Day was declared a national holiday in 1914. Then the celebration of moms paved the way for Father’s Day. The history of Father’s Day goes back to 1908, when a church in West Virginia held a sermon to honor 362 men who had been killed the previous year in a coal mining explosion. This was the country’s first-ever event to strictly honor fathers, but it was just a one-and-done thing, at least in that community.

The following year, however, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd started her quest to establish Father’s Day as a national holiday. Dodd was one of six children raised by their single father, and she thought fathers should be honored in the same way as mothers.

After she’d petitioned her local community and government for a year, Dodd’s home state of Washington celebrated its first official Father’s Day on June 19, 1910. Over the years, the celebration of Father’s Day spread from state to state, and after a long fight, it was finally declared a national holiday in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. Now, we celebrate with funny Father’s Day quotes, dad quotes, father-son quotes, and even stepdad quotes for the bonus dad in our lives.

It took more than 60 years from the birth of the idea to Father’s Day actually being recognized as a federal holiday, and a lot happened to threaten the parent-celebrating holidays during that time. In the 1920s and 1930s, there was a national movement to get rid of both Mother’s and Father’s Day and replace them with one “Parent’s Day.” Beyond that, some men didn’t even want a Father’s Day to begin with. They saw it as a “Hallmark holiday,” invented for the sole purpose of a commercial gimmick, and as many fathers were the sole breadwinners at the time, they didn’t particularly want their hard-earned cash spent on flowers and chocolates.

The Great Depression and World War II, however, helped boost the idea of Father’s Day. Struggling retailers pushed the gift-giving holiday during the Depression, and during the war, Father’s Day became a way to honor the many fathers serving overseas. By the time President Nixon signed the proclamation making Father’s Day a holiday, it was already a national institution.

Does the date of Father’s Day change every year?

Father and sonGeorgijevic/Getty Images

If you have trouble remembering dates, you can stop fretting about this one! Much like the Thanksgiving rule (it falls on the fourth Thursday in November), Father’s Day has a set day, but there’s no set date for dad’s day (at least here in the United States). Each year, the date of Father’s Day changes, but it always falls on the third Sunday in June. So, all you need to remember is June, and where to find these free Father’s Day cards if you’re caught short on your way to dad’s house come the third Sunday.

When is Father’s Day celebrated in other parts of the world?

Father’s Day is celebrated on different days in different countries. For example, in Europe, the United States, and the majority of other countries, the holiday is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. In many Catholic countries, especially in Latin America, fathers are celebrated on St. Joseph’s Day, which falls on March 19. In many Pacific countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji, Father’s Day occurs on the first Sunday in September.

Now that you know the history of Father’s Day, you’re probably wondering how to celebrate with your dad. Spending time together is the best place to start, even if it’s just watching one of these Father’s Day movies together.


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