A little bit of Father's Day history

Father’s Day is nearly upon us in New Zealand and once again and its time to think about dear old dad and appreciate all he does for us. As an intro to the “Father’s Day season” we have put together a little history about the day, and how other countries around the world celebrate it a little differently.

Researchers claim that the tradition of Father's Day can be traced back to the ruins of Babylon. They have recorded that a young boy called Elmesu carved a Father's Day message on a card made from clay nearly 4,000 years ago. Elmesu wished his Babylonian father good health and a long life. We will probably never know how accurate this is, however it seems realistic that appreciation for fathers (and mothers) would have extended throughout the ages.

In Catholic Europe fatherhood is known to have been celebrated as far back as the Middle Ages. Observed on the 19 March it is known as the feast day of Saint Joseph, who is referred to as the fatherly Nutritor Domini (Nourisher of the Lord). This celebration was brought to the Americans by the Spanish and Portuguese and this date is still celebrated in some countries.

In New Zealand, Father's Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September and it is not a public holiday. Fathers' Day seems to have been first observed at St Matthews Church Auckland on 14 July 1929 and first appeared in commercial advertising the following year. By 1931 other churches had adopted the day. In 1935 much of Australia moved to mark the day at the beginning of September and New Zealand followed. In New Zealand, it is very commercialised these days, although there is still the tradition for kids to make their own cards and presents for dad.

However, around the world different countries celebrate dear old dad in different ways. Some examples of how other countries celebrate Father’s Day are below:

In Germany, Father's Day (Vatertag) is celebrated differently from other parts of the world. It is always celebrated on Ascension Day (the Thursday forty days after Easter), which is a federal holiday. Regionally, it is also called men's day, Männertag, or gentlemen's day, Herrentag. It is tradition for groups of males to do a hiking tour with one or more smaller wagons, Bollerwagen, pulled by manpower. In the wagons are wine or beer (according to region) and traditional regional food. Many men use this holiday as an opportunity to get  drunk. According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, alcohol-related traffic accidents multiply by three on this day! These traditions are probably rooted in Christian Ascension Day's processions to the farmlands, which has been celebrated since the 18th century. Men would be seated in a wooden cart and carried to the village's plaza, and the mayor would award a prize to the father who had the most children, usually a big piece of ham. In the late 19th century the religious component was progressively lost, especially in urban areas such as Berlin, and groups of men organized walking excursions with beer and ham. By the 20th century, alcohol consumption had become a major part of the tradition. Many people will take the following Friday off at work, and some schools are closed on that Friday as well; many people then use the resulting four-day-long weekend for a short vacation.

In the United States Father's Day was not celebrated outside Catholic traditions, until the 20th century. As a civic celebration in the US, it was inaugurated in the early 20th century to complement Mother’s Day by celebrating fathers and male parenting.

In Thailand Father’s Day is celebrated on 5 December which is the birthday of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Traditionally Thai’s celebrate by giving their father or grandfather a canna flower, which is considered a masculine flower; however, this is not commonly practiced today.

In the Netherlands Father's Day (Vaderdag) is celebrated on the third Sunday of June. Traditionally, as on Mother's Day, fathers get breakfast in bed made by their children and families gather together and have dinner, usually at the grandparents' house. In recent years, families also started having dinner out, and as on Mother's Day, it is one of the busiest days for restaurants. At school, children handcraft their present for their fathers, although it is also widely commercialised these days.

In Nepal the Newar population (natives of Kathmandu valley) in Nepal honours fathers on the day of Gokarna Aunsi, which occurs in late August or early September, depending on the year, since it depends on the lunar calendar. The Western-inspired celebration of Father's Day that was imported into the country is always celebrated on the same day as Gokarna Aunsi. It is traditional to pay respect to one's deceased father; Hindus go to the Shiva temple of Gokarneswor Mahadev, while Buddhists go to Jan Bahal (Seto Machhendranath or white Tara) temple in Kathmandu.

So think of dear old dad, granddad, great grandad and celebrate the important part they played in your existence today!


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