Sigmund Freud said, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” Realizing the important role of the father in the home, a special day has been set apart calling it Father’s Day. This day is dedicated to express special honour to fathers.
It is not easy to trace the origin of this celebration and different countries observe this day on various days of the year because it has a number of origins. However, the widely accepted concept of the emergence of Father’s Day is credited to the work of a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd of Washington. Her father, William Jackson Smart was a civil war veteran. Her mother died leaving behind six children and their single parent. Having been raised by her father, Sonora wanted her father to know how special he was to her. It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices. Inspired by listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909, Sonora began sincere campaign for the cause of Father’s Day which she wished to observe on June 5, 1910 on her father’s birth day. But there was not much time for preparation and so it was observed on June 19 of that year in Spokane, Washington, which came to be known as the first Father’s Day.
The US President, Calvin Coolidge, in 1924 recommended Father’s Day as a national holiday stating that this event was to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations”. This day was recognized by a joint resolution of the US Congress in 1956. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson made Father’s Day a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June. However, this was officially recognized in 1972 during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Thus Father’s Day was born in memory and gratitude of a daughter who thought that her father and all good fathers should be honoured with a special day just as Mother’s Day was to honour the mothers. Ever since the practice of celebrating Father’s Day has flourished in the US by setting aside the third Sunday of June for holding special services in churches in honour of fathers, and expressing gratitude to them by giving them cards, flowers and gifts, etc. This practice has been followed by many in different countries including India. However some counties observe it on other days. Father’s day is an occasion to recall, recognize and remember the endless pains the fathers had taken for growth and upbringing of their children and also their influence in society. It is a commemoration honouring fathers and celebrating fatherhood and parental bonds with the children. This celebration also includes honouring grandfathers, uncles, guardians and all men who act as fatherly figure in children’s life.
We have rich cultural and religious heritage of honouring fathers. In Mahabharata, when Yudhishthira asked Bhishma about the most important duty of man, he answered, “The worship of mother, father and preceptor is the most important…” Therefore, a man has three venerable superiors, his father, his mother and his spiritual teacher (Vishnu-Sutra). The scripture also says, “Let the son be devoted to his father, be of the same mind with his mother (Atharva Veda). The Qur’an says, “We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents” (Surah 46:15). In the Bible, it is one of the Ten Commandments, but significantly, it is the only commandment with a promise attached: “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land” (Exodus 20:12). The Aid Grant says, “Son, why do you quarrel with your father, due to him you have grown to this age? It is a sin to argue with him”, (Sarong, M.4). Buddha said, “Brethren, one can never repay two persons, I declare. What two? Mother and Father” (Angostura Nike I: 61) The father plays a very important role in raising the children and consequently building a stronger society. The great men and women of history could become great because of their devout and loving parents.
The fathers take up the responsibility of upbringing healthy, well-educated, self-disciplined children who become responsible citizens. However, due to pressure of profession or the demands of job and keeping the children in hostels for schooling, the father may have to be away from his children for some time. Yet, the father must struggle hard to be accessible to them as far as possible so that no child has the feeling of an ‘absentee father’. The most common error made by parents in disciplining their children is the inappropriate use of anger. Children are to be loved and they are to be taught how to honour their parents and other members of the family. They need to be cared for and disciplined and the parents should set a good example at home. Special care for their health and education need to be given.
Due to the influence of western materialism and individualism, culture change, effects of modernization, marital disruption and divorce, broken family relationships, juvenile delinquency, and other similar factors, fathers are nowadays less honoured than they deserve to be honoured. The father deserves honour and support from his children as long as he lives. But many fathers feel deserted in their old age, after their children attain adulthood and become self supporting and get married. Many married men do not care for their parents who may, also, experience ill treatment by their daughter-in-laws. This is most tragic in the case of sick and widowed fathers. Therefore, Father’s Day is an occasion for us not only to give thanks to our fathers but also to see in retrospect how we have behaved towards them, ask forgiveness for any failure in this regard and renew our commitment for duty and devotion to them as long as they live. At the same time, fathers not only need to receive praise and honour, but they also need to be reminded of their duty towards their children and other members of the family in making it a happy family.
(Published on the occasion of Father’s Day)
(The writer is Pastor, Guwahati Baptist Church)