Father’s Day A spiritual, sentimental, secular celebration


father20160619Today, the world celebrates Father’s Day to honor fathers and fatherhood. As with other holidays, Father’s Day is a celebration that marries profits and sentiments, while it is of a religious origin.

A WHOLE lot of people thankfully still hold on to Father’s Day mainly for sentimental reasons, but then—let’s face it—this day of honoring fathers and fatherhood has also largely become a worldwide commercial extravaganza.

The United States-based National Retail Federation (NRF) reports brisk sales on Father’s Day, a proof of its commercial success.

“Consumers are inclined to spend more than ever on Father’s Day this year, as they shower dads with everything from power tools to trips to the ballpark,” reports the NRF, the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants, and Internet retailers from over 45 countries.

Presents galore
The group’s latest annual survey showed that consumers might spend an average of $125.92 for the holiday, up from last year’s $115.57. Total spending is expected to reach $14.3 billion, the highest in the survey’s 13-year history. The figure is still below total spending for this year’s Mother’s Day, though, which summed up to $21.4 billion.

NRF reports: “Consumers plan to spend $3.1 billion on special outings such as dinner, brunch or other types of a ‘fun activity/experience’ (given by 47 percent). Clothing (given by 43 percent) and gift cards (given by 41 percent) are tied at a hair under $2 billion each while consumer electronics (given by 20 percent) follow at $1.7 billion. As with Mother’s Day, greeting cards are the most commonly purchased gift at 65 percent but account for only $833 million of projected spending. Other popular gifts include personal care, automotive accessories, books, music, home improvement/gardening supplies and sporting goods.”

The survey says two in five millennials are planning to give their old men a “gift of experience”—like tickets to a concert or a sporting event than—much more than the older generations.

The survey adds: “When searching for the perfect gift, 38 percent of consumers will head to department stores and 32 percent will shop online, while 27 percent will shop at a discount store, 24 percent at a specialty store, and 17 percent at a local small business.”

Religious roots
Historians have traced the origin of Father’s Day to religious roots, specifically, the Methodist religion, in the US over a century ago.

According to the book Consumer Rites: the Buying and Selling of American Holidays by Leigh Eric Schmidt, Father’s Day has Methodist roots. It says its first celebration was in Spokane YMCA in Washington, USA on June 19, 1910—exactly a century and six years ago.

A lady named Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas, initiated the event. Dodd’s father was a civil war veteran and a single parent, who raised his six children.

Dodd believed fathers should have a similar holiday honoring themselves, just like Mother’s Day to mothers. Schmidt’s book says although Dodd initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, as the day of celebration, the pastors then did not have enough time to prepare their sermons. So, the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

“Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father’s Day, ‘sermons honouring fathers were presented throughout the city,’” online research portal Wikipedia relates.

Early commercialization
The celebrations waned in the 1920s, but resumed in the 1930s, as Dodd promoted Father’s Day nationwide with the help of trade groups that benefited from the holiday, such as makers of ties, tobacco pipes, and other traditional gifts to fathers.

The commercialisation of Father’s Day thus began. By 1938, Dodd got help from the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion of the holiday.

Despite resistance from the public, the businessmen of that era stood firm “and even incorporated these attacks into their advertisements. By the mid-1980s, the Father’s Council wrote that Father’s Day has become a second Christmas for all the men’s gift-oriented industries.”

A bill to recognize the holiday was introduced in the US Congress in 1913 and experienced rough sailing in the American legislature.

Fast forward, US President Nixon finally signed a law in 1972, recognizing Father’s Day as a permanent national holiday every third Sunday of June.

Date mix-up
But there seems to be a little confusion in the Philippines. While most Filipinos celebrate Father’s Day according to the US calendar, the Presidential Museum and Library website says the government has designated a different date for Father’s Day celebration.

The Malacanang website says former president Joseph Ejercito Estrada, through a proclamation in 1998, changed Father’s Day national celebration from the third Sunday of June to the first Monday of December, to coincide with an also changed date of Mother’s Day from the second Sunday of May.

But like in the olden days, when merchants prevailed in celebrating Father’s Day, who could stop the forces of commerce, especially when it is anchored on consumers’ sentimental values?


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