I idolize my father. Completely. Irrevocably. He is the one person in the world I know who will never turn his back on me. Like every year, sitting thousands of miles away from him in a different continent, I wait for the date on my phone to turn to the day the world ‘celebrates’ fathers. I want to be the first to wake him up and wish him. My brother and I turn fierce competitors — trying to beat the other in the “Who Wishes Papa First?” challenge.
To be honest, I don’t remember knowing about Father’s Day or Mother’s Day growing up in India. Valentine’s Day had just started to get its share of popularity.
And though I never forget to call and wish my father, and my children do the same with their father — with carefully thought out presents, handmade cards and flowers, I often wonder how this one designated day can make the most precious man in my life, my father, any more precious than he already is.
Expressing love and gratitude to her father on one day doesn’t seem enough — “It should be done each day, every day,” says Shreya Kamdar, from South Brunswick, N.J.
Sonali Pandey, from Dallas, Texas’s perception of these celebratory days changed dramatically after she became a parent herself. “Maybe a couple of years back I would have fancied the idea, but after becoming a parent, understanding how much of our being is invested in our child, these celebrations seem very shallow to me. I appreciate and celebrate my father every day,” she quips.
But, how did Father’s Day come to be the celebration it is today?
Sonora Smart Dodd from Spokane, Washington is credited as the creator of this special day. Brought up by her single father after her mother died, she wanted the equivalent of Mother’s Day, a holiday officially recognized by 1914, celebrating fathers as well. On Sunday, June 19, 1910 she held the very first official gathering of Father’s Day. She just wanted her dad to “have a place in the sun,” she told The New York Times. The tradition ensued and has only gained momentum ever since.
President Richard Nixon, in 1972 officially declared Father’s Day, to be celebrated every third Sunday of June a national holiday.
One would imagine an idea of celebrating men as being easily accepted. But, it was quite the opposite, according to Lawrence R. Samuel, the author of “American Fatherhood: A Cultural History.” In the male dominated American society in the early 20th century, establishing a special day honoring fathers was deemed silly and unnecessary, he told Teen Vogue. Following the commercial successes of Mother’s Day in the 1930’s Samuel explains, however, retailers set their eyes on Father’s Day.
Spending on gifts has grown exponentially over the years. In 2017, the National Retail Federation estimated a $15.5 billion spending on Father’s Day according to a Time magazine. Sonora Smart Dodd started the day by giving out roses to fathers, but it is now marked by more masculine gifts like neckties, sports equipment, tool kits that men are drawn to.
Father’s Day is now celebrated across the globe, but the date may vary from February in countries like Russia, March in Spain and Italy, while Germany has its celebrations in May. Most countries, including India and the USA have continued with the June tradition.
Fathers and father-like figures in our lives teach us self-esteem, tell us being adventurous is a good thing and give us the confidence to take that deep plunge of faith we may be scared to take in life. There has never been a hurdle my father told me I could not cross. And if there ever was, he made sure he removed it before I reached it.
Many, like Jayshree Gopalan of Dayton, N.J., feel that we do not verbalize our appreciation of our fathers as much as we should, and Father’s Day is an opportunity to tell them how important they are.
“We don’t express our gratitude to them as we do with our mothers. They know we love them, but this special day they get to hear it from us more. I miss being with my father who lives in India, but I’m happy I can call and share my love with him,” Gopalan says.
Her daughter, high schooler Srinidhi and her fourth grader son Krishna, have made handmade cards and plan to prepare a special meal for their father this year. Trisha Govil, a middle schooler from Monmouth Junction, N.J. is excited about spending the day with her father and showing how thankful she is to him.
At home, as I write this, my children are busy baking a cake and painting a shirt that reads “Number One Dad.”
Nupur Bhatnagar is a lawyer by training, an entrepreneur and a storyteller. She is rationalist and an art enthusiast who is fascinated by history. She loves to read and watch historical dramas — sometimes even sees herself in them. Nupur lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.