Father’s Day in France takes place on the third Sunday of June, less than a month after Mother’s Day which is usually celebrated on the last Sunday in May. In the United States and the United Kingdom, Father’s Day is celebrated on the same day as in France, which is just around the beginning of summer. However, in Australia and New Zealand, Fathers are honoured a few months after, on the first Sunday in September.
Father’s Day origins during the Babylonian era
According to some reports by historians, the tradition of honouring fathers dates from the Old Babylonian period, four thousand years ago. They have constructed the story of Elmesu, a young man who would have lived around 2000 BC. In order to honour his much-loved father, Elmesu dedicated a message to him wishing him good health and a long and happy life. It is the oldest Father’s Day greeting card to have been ever discovered, even if its style is very different from the cards we can buy in news agencies today! In fact, Elmesu carved his message on clay, allowing the artefact to be well-preserved for centuries and to be discovered during excavations.
As a matter of fact, celebrating fathers and wishing them all the best might not be as recent a custom as is often thought. However, the tradition as we know it today was adopted at the beginning of the 20th century and first spread throughout the English-speaking countries before reaching France.
Father’s Day in English-speaking countries
The modern customs of Father’s Day was most likely born in the United States, about a hundred years ago. Several stories are said to be at the root of Father’s Day: most of them are certainly true and together led to the spread of that celebration.
The first story says a lady named Grace Clayton from West Virginia founded Father’s Day. In 1907, she heard of a mining accident that happened in Monogah, a few kilometres away from her home, resulting in the death of 310 miners. Among them, there were more than two hundred fathers, leaving a thousand orphans behind. The event deeply affected Mrs Clayton, who asked her pastor, Rev. Thomas Webb, to organise a ceremony to pay tribute to the miners and their widows and orphans. The actual ceremony took place a few months later, on a Sunday in June 1908, in accordance with Mrs Clayton wishes. She also wanted to pay tribute to her father, who had died twenty years earlier, and whose birthday was in the middle of June.
Another person, a man called Harry Meek, is reported to have been the originator of Father’s Day. As the President of the Lions Club of Chicago in the 1910s, he organised a ceremony to honour the fathers of his association in 1915. The celebration took place on the third Sunday of June, being the closest Sunday to Harry Meek’s own birthday. In 1920, Mr Meek was honoured by the Lions Club of America and received a gold watch, on which was carved the following inscription: “Originator of Father’s Day”.
Finally, a third story has been reported for a century as the starting point of Father’s Day in the English-speaking countries. It features a young lady from the State of Washington called Sonora Smart Dodd. While listening to a sermon during a Mother’s Day celebration in 1909, she had had the idea of creating a similar celebration dedicated to fathers. Sonora Smart Dodd especially wanted to pay tribute to her own father, who was a Civil War Veteran raising his six children alone. As her father was born in the middle of June, she organised a Father’s Day celebration in her hometown of Spokane on 19th June 1910.
Father’s Day then became an official celebration in the United States, President Calvin Coolidge asking in 1924 for Father’s Day to be organised throughout the country. However, the Congress refused several times to pass a law that would have established an official Father’s Day, fearing it would become a commercial celebration. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued a presidential proclamation honouring fathers, recognising the fact that Father’s Day was taking place on the third Sunday of June. Finally, in 1972 President Richard Nixon signed into law a permanent Father’s Day to be observed on the third Sunday of June, making that celebration a national annual holiday.
Today’s Father’s Day in English speaking-countries was born in the United States, before spreading to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In most of the English speaking countries, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June. However, in Australia and New-Zealand, it takes place on the first Sunday of September, which is also the first Sunday of spring. Then, the weather is usually better, allowing families to plan open-air events such as picnics or barbecues.
Father’s Day in France
Father’s Day in France has a slightly different history. According to historians, we can find its root in Catholic tradition. According to that, fathers used to be honoured every year, on the 19th March, which corresponds to Saint Joseph’s day. St. Joseph, as the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus, worked hard in order to ensure a stable life for his family. For centuries, this celebration has been a way of paying tribute to St. Joseph, but also to fathers in general.
In the 20th century, another tradition sprang up alongside it, the origins and aims of it being totally different. In 1946, Marcel Quercia created a company called “Flaminaire” in Brittany. The firm’s main products were gas lighters, of which Mr Quercia was the first retailer. As a businessman, he then wanted to promote its innovation throughout France and spent much money in advertising. However, the company was hardly known by French people, while smoking was paradoxically fashionable at the end of the 1940s. Mr Quercia had an idea: to create a link between his lighters and fathers in order to make his products appear essential. Consequently “Flaminaire” founded Father’s Day in France in 1949, which took place on the third Sunday of June, just like the American celebration. It was a huge success: three years later, an official decree recognised the existence of an annual Father’s Day, on the third Sunday of June!
In the United States, in the United Kingdom and in France
2016: 19th June
2017: 18th June
2018: 17th June
In Australia and New-Zealand
2016: 4th September
2017: 3th September
2018: 2nd September
French poems for Father’s Day in France
Pour mon Père
Mon père aimé, mon père à moi,
Toi qui me fais bondir
Sur tes genoux
Comme un chamois,
Que pourrais-je te dire
Que tu ne sais déjà ?
Il fait si doux
Quand ton sourire
sous notre toit.
Je me sens fort, je me sens roi,
Quand je marche à côté de toi.
La Fête des Pères
En mai, j’avais appris quelques vers,
Récités peut-être de travers,
Pour dire « bonne fête » à maman,
Pour toi, aujourd’hui, j’en fais autant.
Espérant que cela va te plaire
Que je pense à la fête des pères,
Je récite ces mots, sans les lire,
Alors, j’attends ton plus beau sourire
Si tu es fier de moi, mon papa,
Puis serre-moi, très fort, dans tes bras.
Quand je suis dans tes bras
Mon coeur bat tout bas
Quand tu me fais un bisou
C’est tout doux
Quand je suis sur ton coeur
Je n’ai plus peur
Quand tu me fais un câlin
Je n’ai plus de chagrin
Mais quand tu es parti
Je m’ennuie à l’infini