The history of Father's Day


Father's Day is a time to celebrate all the joys and struggles of raising children and an opportunity to honor those who have embraced the essential role of fatherhood. It is an opportunity to thank the fathers and father figures in our lives for their devotion to the children entrusted to their care, both those born to them and those they have chosen to nurture and raise as their own.

Other nations around the world acknowledge Father's Day at different times during the year. For example, Australian families celebrate dad on the first Sunday of September, whereas places like Norway, Sweden, and Finland, observe Father's Day on the second Sunday in November.

In Italy and many other European Nations, Father's Day is celebrated on St. Joseph's Day, March 19. Sfingi, Cannoli, and Zeppole are traditional Italian pastries generally served on March 19 for St Joseph's Day. In addition, many Italian homes, churches, and community centers celebrate St. Joseph's Day with a beautiful tradition of setting out food for the homeless and hungry. However, a variety of Zeppole without creams are also enjoyed at Christmas time and during other holidays.

Like many holidays, the modern Americanized version of Father's Day has an interesting and less well-known history beyond commercialism and greeting cards. The first documented observance took place in West Virginia on July 5, 1908, in the wake of a tragic mining accident that claimed the lives of hundreds of men and fathers.

Grace Golden Clayton, the daughter of a minister in Fairmont, Va., proposed hosting a service to honor all fathers, particularly those who had just perished in what is considered one of the worst mining accidents in American history. Unfortunately, the initial celebration did not immediately take off, as very few people outside this area had caught wind of it. Simultaneously, however, other women throughout the country were coming up with their own ways to celebrate fathers.

In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Wash., was inspired by Anna Jarvis and the idea of Mother's Day. Her father, William Jackson Smart, a farmer and Civil War veteran, was also a single parent who raised Sonora and her five brothers by himself after his wife passed away, giving birth to their youngest child in 1898.

Her father was born in Crawford County, Ark., in 1842, and although Arkansas was a Confederate state, a robust Unionist movement banded together when the American Civil War broke out in 1861. Smart enlisted as a sergeant on the side of the Unionists on March 21, 1863, and shortly after, Union forces captured Little Rock, which gave them control over the eastern part of the state. 

Several months passed before Sonora convinced the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA to set aside a Sunday in June to celebrate Father's Day officially. Finally, on June 19, 1910, the first celebrations commenced. Sonora hand-delivered presents to disabled fathers, and boys from the YMCA decorated their lapels with fresh-cut roses (red for living fathers, white for the deceased). The local ministers also devoted their sermons to the occasion.

As time passed on, the holiday grew and evolved and is now celebrated around the world. This year, Father's Day also happens to fall on the same day as the summer solstice, making it the perfect time to kick-off the summer with an outdoor celebration, barbecue, camping adventure, or day at the beach. In addition, a number of our county parks offer camping, hiking, fishing, and other recreation opportunities.

For the complete list of Suffolk County Parks and their amenities, visit You can also purchase a Green Key on this website, which grants you access to Suffolk County Parks and reduces park activities fees.

A Green Key card is also required to access the online reservation system for golf, camping, and marina reservations. The Green Key is good for three years from the date of purchase. Additionally, there are discounts available for those actively serving in the military, auxiliary police, cert, handicapped, junior (under 18), seniors, veterans, volunteers with the appropriate certifications, and health care workers.

No matter how you commemorate the occasion, be sure to tell the father figures in your life how much they mean to you. If we have learned anything in the last year, it's that tomorrow is never promised, so hold your loved ones tight. From my family to yours, Happy Father's Day!


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