The First Sunday of September
The first Sunday of September is when we honour the fathers and father figures in
our lives. You might have treated your dad to breakfast in bed or gifted him some socks and jocks. But do you know how this tradition came about?
The history of a day honouring fathers can be traced back to celebrations like St Joseph’s Day in early Christian times, but the modern-day version started in the United States, following a terrible mining disaster that killed 360 men in 1907.
Following year, in 1908, the church held a special service remembering those lost men and fathers.
At the same time, the uptake of Mother’s Day was growing — but Sonora Smart Dodd in Washington state wanted to do something to honour her father. (Sonora’s mother died having the sixth of their children and her father had raised them by himself).
“Her father was a war veteran from the Civil War, a farmer and a widower.”
The idea was taken up by Dodd’s church, and on 19th June 1910, all of the churches in the Spokane Ministerial Alliance marked the first Father’s Day.
By 1972, the third Sunday in June had been permanently authorised as a national holiday by the US government.
The commercialisation of Father’s Day
From the beginning, Dodd realised she would need to commercialise the day to ensure it grew in popularity.
“It was incredibly seductive to clothing manufacturers, people who made tobacco
and anyone who sold manly products,” Time Magazine historian Erin Blakemore wrote.
So why do Australians celebrate in September?
One of the first mentions of Father’s Day in Australia was seen in the Newcastle Sun on September 4, 1936.The article promoted a Father’s Day meeting at the Baptist Tabernacle, with reference to hopes the day would become as popular as Mother’s Day.
The idea had also surfaced a week earlier on August 29, 1936 in The Daily News Perth, with an advertorial suggesting gifts to be given on the day. But an article in the Western Herald in 1964 said the day was first celebrated in 1935.
The same article explained the day was officially designated as the first Sunday in September through the Commonwealth in 1964.
No reason was officially given for the choice of date, but it is a widely held belief that the month was chosen for commercial benefit.
September spaces Father’s Day almost perfectly between Mother’s Day and Christmas in a calendar year, giving shoppers ample time to save for all.