Father's Day and my birthday often fall on the same day. Such is the case this year.
The reason for the frequency of this dual-celebration is because Father's Day falls on the third Sunday in June rather than on a fixed date, like July 4 for Independence Day in the U.S.
But where did all this celebration of fatherhood begin, you ask? You have to turn back the hands of time more than 100 years to the first known Father's Day service. According to the "Old Farmer's Almanac," which supplied a good deal of my research for our conversation today, it happened in the town of Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5,1908. That's when Grace Golden Clayton created a service to honor all fathers, with special emphasis on hundreds of men who died during a huge mine explosion in nearby Monongah, West Virginia in 1907.
More than 360 men died in what was described at the time as the "worst mining disaster in American history." Unfortunately, Ms. Clayton's celebration was a one-and-done event because of a limited amount of publicity outside the Fairmont area.
The Father's Day celebration we know today began on the other side of the continent thanks to the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington. Her father was William Jackson Stuart, a farmer and Civil War veteran who raised Sonora and her five younger brothers by himself after his wife died giving birth to their youngest child in 1898.
The idea of Father's Day came to Sonora when she attended a Mother's Day church service in 1909. She wanted to tell the town how special her father was and the role he played in her life. Several months later, she convinced the local Spokane Ministerial Association and the city's YMCA to set aside a Sunday in June to remember fathers. She suggested June 5th — her father's birthday — but the ministers chose the third Sunday in June to allow them more time after their Mother's Day celebration on the second Sunday in May.
So, the date was set — June 19, 1910 for the first Father's Day. During the celebration, living fathers were given red roses to be pinned to their lapels and white roses for fathers who had passed (given to surviving family members).
Six years later the holiday was poised to go national.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson and his family observed the holiday. Eight years later, in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed a resolution officially creating Father's Day. That resolution said, in part, that the holiday was "to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations."
It wasn't until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order that the holiday would be officially celebrated on the third Sunday in June of each year.
And then, in 1972 when Richard Nixon was president, Congress passed an act officially creating Father's Day as a national holiday.
Father's Day has wound its way around the world since that first celebration in 1910. The Feast of St. Joseph is also dubbed the Father's Day holiday in traditionally Catholic countries like Spain and Portugal.
The Taiwanese celebrate Father's Day on Aug. 8, the eighth day of the eight month.
And in Thailand, Father's Day is celebrated on former King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday on Dec. 5th.
I hope you take the time to tell your father how much he means to you. Just keep in mind the wit and humor of Mark Twain who said, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
Here's wishing fathers of all ages a great day with your children, in body and in spirit.