Father’s Day: What is it and how did it start?

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Held on the third Sunday of June, Father's Day celebrates the contributions fathers and father figures have made. Scholars believe this holiday to have origins dating back thousands of years.

Father’s Day is a special occasion to mark and celebrate the contributions a father has made to one’s life. There are a range of traditions celebrating father figures, stepfathers, fathers-in-law, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, and even other male relatives. From a simple phone call or greeting card to large parties and family outings, there are myriad ways people honour the man they love. Countries outside of the United States have also picked up on the idea of Father’s Day, with many following suit by celebrating it on the third Sunday in June. However, there are some countries that have decided to honour dads on different dates. While most of us know when Father’s Day is celebrated, not everyone knows how it all started. So, we will share a little history on a day that’s celebrated across the world and its impact on consumer spending—which shows just how much we love them!



It has been observed by archaeologists that Father’s Day is not some new phenomenon like many people believe it to be. Rather, they claim that Father’s Day is even referenced in ancient Babylonian ruins. The archaeologists recorded that a dutiful young boy by the name of Elmesu carved a Father’s Day message on an ancient clay Babylonian tablet around 4,000 years ago! It depicted a wish for his father to have good health and a long life. It’s unknown exactly what happened to Elmesu and his father, and it’s unlikely his message was accompanied by a bow-tie and golf club set, however, academics believe that this discovery indicates early tributes to fathers. The tradition of celebrating Father’s Day remains today, with over 70 countries choosing the third Sunday of June to commemorate their dads.
So, we will share a little history on a day that’s celebrated across the world and its impact on consumer spending—which shows just how much we love them!


It’s said that the seeds of Father’s Day were planted during two different events. According to some accounts, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in July 1908 for a group of 361 men in West Virginia, all of whom were fathers. The story goes that they were all killed in a mining explosion in December 1907, which people call the Monongah Mine Disaster. Touched by the devastated families and concerned about the more than 1,000 children who lost a father, it was suggested by a local woman named Grace Golden Clayton to hold a service to celebrate the men.
“It was partly the explosion that set me to think how important and loved most fathers are. All those lonely children and the heart-broken wives and mothers, made orphans and widows in a matter of a few minutes. Oh, how sad and frightening to have no father, no husband, to turn to at such a sad time,” Clayton said in a local newspaper article. From then on, Father’s Day has been celebrated each and every church service on July 5 at Clayton’s local Methodist church.
Another event that inspired Father’s Day was held in Spokane, Washington on June 19, 1910. A woman named Sonora Smart Dodd believed that her father, a widow with six children, deserved the same praise and appreciation as mothers. William Smart was a Civil War veteran who raised his children on his own after his wife died during childbirth. This was quite uncommon at the time, as widowers would usually remarry and have their children placed in the care of others. While attending a Mother’s Day church sermon, Smart Dodd came up with the idea of a holiday paying tribute to fathers like hers. It was suggested by Dodd to celebrate Father’s Day on June 5th (the anniversary of her father’s death), but the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday in June.
It was suggested by Dodd to celebrate Father’s Day on June 5th (the anniversary of her father’s death), but the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday in June.


In 1956, the US Congress finally came around to recognising Father’s Day. However, it took another decade until President Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring Father’s Day a national holiday in 1966, and another 6 years for President Nixon to permanently establish Father’s Day to be held on the third Sunday of June. Originally approved as an idea by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, the motion was seconded by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924. In spite of many years struggling to get this day officially recognised, there was a happy ending at last for Father’s Day supporters, with Smart Dodd being honoured at the 1974 World’s Fair in Spokane for her contribution.


Celebrated by nearly three quarters of Americans, it’s no doubt that Father’s Day is one of the most successful and enjoyable summer holidays. What’s the most common gift for Father’s Day, you ask? Much like in ancient Babylon, surprisingly, it’s still the greeting card. According to NRF’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights, here’s data on the five most popular items/events people buy for their dads on Father’s Day.

  • Greeting Cards (64.3%): Greeting cards take a big slice of the pie when it comes to Father’s Day gifts, racking up around $861 million annually.
  • Outings (48%): Dads love activities as much as gifts. Special outings like dinners and sporting events are activities that still reign supreme, with Americans spending around $3.3 billion to make them happen.
  • Clothing (46.1%): Just like ties, casual clothing such as shorts and t-shirts are popular choices among fathers as well. Consumers will spend close to $2.2 billion to makeover their dads.
  • Gift Cards (42.6%): Gift cards are good for fathers who are notoriously hard to shop for, and $2.2 billion is spent by those who go the easier route.
  • Electronics (21.2%): Toys are for men too! Tablets, music players, and the like are all great gadget gifts and make up $1.8 billion of Father’s Day spending.

For e-commerce businesses looking to capitalise on the holiday, consider how the above figures can be exploited to benefit your sales. For instance, many B2C businesses across industries offer some sort of gift card or voucher. Advertising this as an easy and appealing gift option may contribute to a boost in sales around the holiday, but only if you’ve planned your advertising and content marketing strategy ahead of time. Consider creating a content calendar to mark important dates throughout the year where you can run special campaigns and promotions. For more information on how to run marketing campaigns in tandem with the holidays, visit our blog or reach out and say hello. Happy Father’s Day!