In Hindu tradition, Father’s Day coincides with the new moon day, or Amavasya, during late August. In Thailand it is customary to honor thy father with a Canna flower. And in Germany, Vatertag is celebrated on the Thursday forty days following Easter. In the United States, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June, however this was not always the case. What is the disastrous event that inspired the holiday? And what’s up with the incorrect placement of the apostrophe in the holiday’s name?
Perhaps inspired by the first celebration of Mother’s Day a few months prior, Mrs. Grace Golden Clayton organized the very first observance of Father’s Day on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia to honor the lives of the 210 fathers lost in the Monongah Mining disaster. Unfortunately, two years later Mrs. Clayton was upstaged by Sonora Dodd who organized her own Father’s Day celebration and petitioned Congress to establish the day as a national holiday. Ms. Dodd’s efforts finally paid off when in 1972 President Richard Nixon officially signed into law an annual day honoring fathers.
Whoever created the first petition to establish the holiday was not much of a grammarian. The name is understood as a plural possession as in “day belonging to Fathers:” therefore the apostrophe should follow the /s/ and read “Fathers’ Day.” Ms. Dodd makes proper use of the apostrophe in her original documents but somewhere along the way the punctuation was placed incorrectly denoting singular possession as in “day belonging to Father” – “Father’s Day.” The grammatical misstep continues to don cards, mugs, and t-shirts to this day.
Father Time has offered many iconic father figures throughout the years. Our Founding Fathers enacted the framework of this country’s government by establishing the United States Constitution and declaring independence from Great Britain by signing the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
On a darker note, perhaps George Lucas was dropping a hint in Star Wars Episode IV by calling the antagonist Darth Vader. While the exact origin of the term ‘darth’ does not exist, many sci-fi theorists believe the literal translation is ‘dark.’ However, another theory holds that the term is a contraction of “dark lord of the sith.” What we do know is the use of ‘vader’ is quite telling. Vader is Dutch meaning ‘father.’ The German word for father is ‘vater,’ however the Dutch pronunciation is most commonly used. Perhaps we should not have been surprised when we heard Darth Vader speak those immortal words to Luke: “I am your father.”
Can you think of some more iconic father figures? Share them in the comments below.
Back to Top