Father’s Day in France takes place on the third Sunday of June, less than a month after Mother’s Day (on the last Sunday in May). In the United States and the United Kingdom, people celebrate Father’s Day on the same day as in France. That is just around the beginning of summer. However, Australians and New Zealanders honoured their Fathers a few months after, on the first Sunday in September.
A Babylonian origin?
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.
Elmesu dedicated a message to him wishing him good health and a happy life to honour his much-loved father.
It is the oldest Father’s Day greeting card to have been discovered, even if its style is very different from the cards we can buy from news agencies today!
In fact, Elmesu carved his message on clay. This allowed the artefact to be well-preserved for centuries and 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. It first spread throughout the English-speaking countries before reaching France.
Father’s Day in English-speaking countries
The modern customs of Father’s Day most likely originated in the United States about a hundred years ago.
They are several stories that make the foundations of Father’s Day. Most of them are certainly valid and together led to the spread of that celebration.
Grace Clayton’s tribute
The first story says a lady named Grace Clayton from West Virginia founded Father’s Day.
In 1907, she heard of a mining accident in Monongah, a few kilometres away from her home, resulting in the death of 310 miners.
There were over two hundred fathers among them, leaving a thousand orphans behind.
The event deeply affected Mrs Clayton. She 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, following 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.
Harry Meek, “originator of Father’s Day”
Another person, Harry Meek, is reportedly 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 occurred on the third Sunday of June, the closest Sunday to Harry Meek’s own birthday.
In 1920, the Lions Club of America honoured Mr Meek. He received a gold watch, on which was carved the following inscription: “Originator of Father’s Day”.
Sonora Smart Dodd’s tribute to her father
Finally, a third story has been reported for a century as the starting point of Father’s Day in English-speaking countries.
It features a young lady from the State of Washington called Sonora Smart Dodd (1882-1978).
While listening to a sermon during a Mother’s Day celebration in 1909, she had the idea of creating a similar celebration dedicated to fathers.
Sonora Smart Dodd especially wanted to pay tribute to her father, 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.
An official celebration in the US
Father’s Day then became an official celebration in the United States. President Calvin Coolidge asked in 1924 for Father’s Day to be organised throughout the country.
However, 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 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.
The celebration today
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 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, 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 the Catholic tradition. According to that, fathers used to be honoured every year on the 19th of March, which corresponds to Saint Joseph’s day.
Joseph, as the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus, worked hard to ensure a stable life for his family.
For centuries, this celebration has been a way of paying tribute to St. Joseph but also fathers in general.
La Fête des Pères in the 20th century
In the 20th century, another tradition sprang up alongside it, its origins and aims 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 wanted to promote its innovation throughout France and spent money on 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 to make his products appear essential.
Consequently, “Flaminaire” founded Father’s Day in France in 1949. It occurred 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, the United Kingdom and France
2022: 19th June
2023: 11th June
2024: 9th June
2025: 8th June
2026: 14th June
2027: 13th June
In Australia and New-Zealand
2022: 4th September
2023: 3rd September
2024: 1st September
2025: 7th September
2026: 6th September
2027: 5th September
Key facts for Father’s Day in France
- 35% of French people intend to celebrate Father’s Day.
- 41% of adults in France intend to give a gift on Father’s Day.
- The average amount spent on Father’s Day is 49.98 euros.
- 22% of French fathers receive clothes and accessories, 20% music or films, 15% DIY products, 15% beauty and hygiene products, 14% jewellery and watches, 14% sports and leisure equipment, 12% food and drink, 12% gardening products…
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
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For more info, check out the Father’s Day page on Wikipedia in English or French!