In Spain every March 19 we celebrate Father’s Day. However, although we have been celebrating this day for many years, the truth is that very few of us know where the idea comes from, a tradition that has its origin in the United States. It all began on July 5, 1908, in a church in West Virginia, while a mass was celebrated in honor of the fathers and, especially, in memory of the 362 men who had died in an explosion in the coal mines of Fairmont Monohag Company, in December 1907.
That was the first time that a public event was held to honor parents, although it was not until the following year that Sonora Smart Dodd, an American, daughter of a widowed father, thought it would be nice to dedicate a day to honor the effort of his father and all the fathers in the world.
Henry Jackson Smart, Smart Dodd’s father, was an American Civil War veteran who became a widower when his wife passed away while giving birth to their sixth child. The man was left alone and without any support, so he had to take on the difficult task of caring for and educating his six children, on a farm in eastern Washington. Smart Dodd grew up watching his father, a loving and devoted man, make all kinds of sacrifices to support his family.
When Smart Dodd grew up, he wanted to reward her for her effort: While listening to a sermon at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church in honor of Mother’s Day, Smart Dodd thought it was important to recognize the work of parents as well. So a few days later she reached out to the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and suggested her father’s birthday, June 5, as the date to honor fathers. The Spokane Ministerial Alliance accepted the idea but chose the third Sunday in June to celebrate the tribute. Thus, on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane, Washington.
Years later the idea spread across the nation and in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson sent a message to Spokane for Father’s Day. However, the celebration was not official until 1966, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Soon after, in 1972, President Nixon established a national proclamation of Father’s Day to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June each year.
Why is Father’s Day celebrated in Spain?
The idea of celebrating Father’s Day came to Spain after it spread to the United States in 1948. It was an initiative of a teacher from the Dehesa de la Villa, Manuela Vicente Ferrero, who decided to celebrate a day of festivities at her school to honor the parents of their students.
It all started because some parents got angry because they were not honored as they used to do with mothers, so they approached Manuela and commented on her opinion. The teacher agreed with them and decided to do something about it. He organized a mass, a children’s festival and helped his students prepare some crafts to give to their parents . The chosen date was March 19, the day of San José, since Manuela considered San José a model of a father, sacrificed, humble and hard-working.
Years later, the initiative spread through the media, such as El Correo de Zamora and El Magisterio Español. In her publications, the teacher made reference to the importance of the father in the education of children and how children should be grateful for their affection, love and tenderness.
However, it was not until 1951 that the celebration of Father’s Day reached the entire country through an interview with him on the radio program, Ultima hora de Actualidad, in which he explained the history of this day to listeners. Little by little, different institutions were added, years later the celebration of Father’s Day, on March 19, became official.
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