Tomorrow, June 16th, is Father’s Day in the U.S., a national tribute to the more than 70,000,000 fathers in the United States. Now strange as it may seem, Father’s Day was started by Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, a woman from Spokane, Washington in 1909, but four Presidents established it so that it would never be forgotten:
- President Woodrow Wilson approved of an idea of a day for fathers in 1916
- Presidents Calvin Coolidge made it a red-letter day on the calendar in 1924 “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations”.
- President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day in 1966.
- Finally, in 1972 President Richard Nixon ensured the day to honor fathers would be held on the third Sunday of June by issuing a permanent national observance of Father’s Day.
- At last, Mrs. Dodd was honored for her invention at the World’s Fair in Spokane in 1974, just four years before she died.
Although it started to simply honor fathers, it quickly became a commercialized occassion, because once you buy your father a gift, it’s hard to go back. For that reason, a group of people tried to argue in favor of a parents day in the twenties but this movement vanished in the following depression. In the thirties, entire advertising campaigns were developed around father’s day and so it became a second Christmas for merchants, haberdashers and purveyors of manly goods.
Today, Father’s Day remains to be highly commercialized and we can buy anything from classic ties and accessories, to specialty liquor or weird car and grill accessories that no dad really needs. Now, gifting is an act of joy and happiness. You want to give something your dad has yearned for a long time or just can’t justify spending his hard earned money on, then that’s great. However, it seems like it has merely become an exchange of material goods to the point were some Father’s Day Gift Guides even suggest to give your dad a little envelope with a store bought greeting card and money in it!
Personally, I think that’s missing the point. Your father’s luck and happiness neither depends on that dollar note, nor on the car polish or grill tongs. Instead, a different way to approach Father’s Day could be about creating shared experiences. It’s hard to remember what gifts were exchanged last year, but great memories last for a long time. So if your dad like clothes, by all means: get him a special tie in raw silk or a knit. But then consider asking him to put it on, and you should go to a club and have a drink together or experience an old school straight razor shave at your local barber. If your dad is an outdoor lover, organize a canoe trip for just the two of you. With the ever-present distractions of phones, televisions and computers, it can be very meaningful to devote 100% of one’s attention to simply having a conversation! If he likes a good drink, attend a scotch tasting with him. In case your father is into cars, take him to car driving / racing weekend and if that’s too expensive, just rent a nice roadster and take it for a spin with him. I am certain he will remember these kind of experiences more vividly in a few years down the line than any gift card or store bought item. Altogether, make a little effort and think about how you can create an mutual experience that will really be of lasting value for both of you.
Now, not everybody is fortunate enough to live close by their dad. For example, my father lives thousands of miles away from me on the other side of the pond and as much I’d love to fly over and spend a day with him, these things are not always possible or practical. So, my sister and I thought about things he really enjoys. He is not into clothes, drinks or shaves in a particular way, but he loves to eat yogurt with granola and if he doesn’t consume at least 3 of them a day, I’d be seriously worried about his well-being. Consequently, we decided to have two kinds of granola mixed up just for him, one from my sister and the other one from me. We added certain things we and he liked so he will think of us everyday for the next couple of weeks when he eats his yogurt. Of course, we could have just gone out and bought him a gigantic box of cereal and be done with it but with a little thought, we came up with a one of a kind gift that made him truly happy. Great gifts don’t have to break the bank!
Hopefully, on one of the father’s day in the future, I can organize a trip for him, my sister and myself – because travelling is one of his other passions.
So, if you have bought something for your dad tomorrow, make sure to connect it to an experience you can share or just make an effort to spend some time with him doing something he really likes. I am positive it will be one of his more memorable Father’s Days.
What were the Father’s Day gifts you are most proud of or which ones did you enjoy the most?