One of the greatest institutions on earth is fatherhood. When fatherhood is done right, it benefits children and families and improves communities and the world. Appropriately, Father’s Day is observed once a year on the third Sunday in June to honor fathers.

In today’s Fathering Strong blog, we will look into the history of Fatherhood and will offer suggestions for making this year’s celebration special.

The History of Father’s Day

Father’s Day in the US has a fascinating history, with several key figures and events contributing to its establishment:

  • Early Attempts:
    • In 1908, a woman named Grace Golden Clayton held a church service in West Virginia to honor fathers, particularly those lost in a mining accident. However, this event didn’t gain widespread traction.
  • Sonora Smart Dodd’s Initiative:
    • In 1909, inspired by Mother’s Day, Sonora Smart Dodd, a woman from Washington, proposed a day to honor fathers. Her own father, a Civil War veteran who raised six children alone, motivated her.
    • In 1910, the first official Father’s Day celebration occurred in Spokane, Washington, on June 19th.
  • Gaining Momentum:
    • The idea gradually gained support, with President Calvin Coolidge expressing his approval in 1924.
    • In 1956, Congress passed a resolution recognizing Father’s Day, but it wasn’t yet a national holiday.
  • Official Recognition:
    • In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day through an executive order.
    • Finally, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed the law that made Father’s Day a permanent national holiday in the United States.

So, while there were earlier attempts, Sonora Smart Dodd’s initiative and the dedication of others ultimately led to the official establishment of Father’s Day in the US on the third Sunday of June.

Father’s Day is a significant and popular holiday in the US, though not quite as popular as Mother’s Day. Here’s how it compares:

  • Spending:
    • In 2023, Americans spent a record-breaking $22.9 billion on Father’s Day, which is a substantial amount.
    • However, Mother’s Day typically sees even higher spending, reaching around $25 billion in 2023.
  • Participation:
    • Surveys suggest that around 75% of Americans plan to celebrate Father’s Day, indicating a high level of participation.
    • Mother’s Day usually sees slightly higher participation rates.
  • Overall Popularity:
    • YouGov polling ranks Father’s Day as the 6th most popular national and religious event in the US.
    • Mother’s Day typically holds a higher position in these rankings.

So, while Father’s Day is widely celebrated and generates significant spending, it doesn’t quite reach the same level of popularity as Mother’s Day in the US. That’s okay.

Is Father’s Day Observed Globally?

Father’s Day is observed in many countries worldwide, but the dates and traditions vary. Here are some key points:

  • Global Reach:
    • Father’s Day is celebrated in over 110 countries, showcasing its widespread recognition.
  • Date Variations:
    • While the US celebrates on the third Sunday of June, other countries have different dates.
      • Some examples include:
        • Canada, UK, and Argentina: Third Sunday of June.
        • Australia and New Zealand: First Sunday of September.
        • Thailand: December 5th (King’s Birthday).
        • Italy and Portugal: March 19th (St. Joseph’s Day).
  • Local Traditions:
    • Each country has its own unique traditions for celebrating Father’s Day.
    • Common themes include gift-giving, special meals, family gatherings, and outdoor activities.

So, while the specific date and traditions may differ, the spirit of honoring fathers is shared across many cultures.

Celebrating the Holiday

I don’t usually give much thought to it. Every year, going out for a nice lunch after church is the extent of what my family does.

How will you celebrate Father’s Day this year? I searched for ideas for making the holiday special, and here are some I came up with.

Ideas for Making Father’s Day Special

Honoring your father on Father’s Day:

There are many ways to celebrate Father’s Day, depending on your father’s interests and your budget. Here are some ideas:

Quality Time:

  • Plan an activity you both enjoy: This could be anything from going for a hike or bike ride to playing a game of catch or watching his favorite sports team.
  • Have a family picnic: Pack a delicious lunch and head to a park or your backyard for some quality time together.
  • Help him with a project: If your dad is working on something around the house, offer to lend a hand. It’s a great way to bond and get things done.
  • Create a personalized gift: Make a photo album, write a heartfelt letter, or create a piece of art that expresses your appreciation of him.


  • Choose a thoughtful gift: Consider his hobbies and interests when choosing a gift. It could be something practical, like a new tool or gadget, or something sentimental, like a framed photo or personalized item.
  • Cook him his favorite meal: Prepare a delicious breakfast, lunch, or dinner for him. It’s a simple gesture that shows you care.
  • Give him an experience: Tickets to a concert, sporting event, or museum visit can be a memorable gift.

Other Ideas:

  • Write him a letter or poem: Express your love and appreciation for him in writing.
  • Create a family time capsule: Fill a box with photos, letters, and other mementos to open in the future.
  • Plant a tree in his honor: This is a lasting and meaningful way to celebrate him.
  • Volunteer together: Spend the day giving back to your community.

Remember, the most important thing is to spend quality time with your father and show him how much you appreciate him.

Dads, Let’s Celebrate Each Other!

There are many ways for fathers to celebrate other fathers on Father’s Day, fostering a sense of community and appreciation:

Sharing the Celebration:

  • Organize a group outing: Plan a dads’ day out with friends and family. This could involve:
    • A hike or camping trip
    • A sporting event or concert
    • A game night or poker tournament
  • Host a backyard barbecue: Invite other dads and their families for a casual get-together with food, drinks, and games.
  • Start a Father’s Day tradition: Create a new tradition with other dads, like an annual fishing trip or volunteering together.

Gestures of Appreciation:

  • Write a letter or card:  Express your gratitude for other dads in your life, highlighting their positive qualities and the impact they have.
  • Offer a helping hand: If another dad is struggling with a project or chore, offer to lend a hand. It’s a simple way to show support and appreciation.
  • Share a thoughtful gift: Consider a small, personalized gift for other dads, like a homemade treat, a book related to their interests, or a gift card to their favorite store.

Community Involvement:

  • Volunteer together: Organize a group of dads to volunteer at a local charity or organization. This is a meaningful way to give back to the community and spend time together.
  • Support local businesses: Choose to patronize businesses owned or operated by dads in your community.
  • Spread the word: Encourage other dads to celebrate Father’s Day and recognize the importance of their role in families and society.

Remember, the key is to show appreciation and create a sense of connection among fathers.

Community Recognition of Fathers

As communities acknowledge the contributions of good fathers to the well-being of their families and the greater community, they encourage more of the same.

Our nonprofit, Urban Light Ministries, provides the Good Dad Award™ in my community. The award aims to raise awareness and promote good fatherhood through positive and meaningful recognition that inspires and motivates others. More than 40 fathers will be honored this year with one of the Good Dad Awards™. They will be presented certificates the day before Father’s Day at an annual public event we call FatherFest.

The Good Dad Award™ is available for anyone, anywhere, to recognize a father at any time. Simply go to our website, You will find the criteria, rules, and online nomination form there. Their certificate will be emailed to them. The submission is free, but donations to our fatherhood work are encouraged.

Guidance from the Holy Scriptures

Honoring fathers is not only a good idea; it is commanded by the Heavenly Father.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. – Exodus 20:12

The mandate is also found in the New Testament.

“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” – Ephesians 6:2-3

About the Author

Eli Williams is a father, grandfather, and father figure to many. He and his wife Judy have served in community outreach ministry since the late 1980s and founded Urban Light Ministries in 1995. Eli has been a professional fatherhood practitioner since 2008 and is an ordained Christian minister. Reverend Williams authored Father Love—The Powerful Resource Every Child Needs in 2018.


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