When is Father’s Day? Everything you need to know, from date to history

The tradition dates back to the early 20th century

Father's Day in the UAE is celebrated on June 21. Kelli McClintock / Unsplash  
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If you have stepped foot in a mall recently, you'll be well aware that Father's Day is right around the corner, thanks to the shop displays and adverts reminding us to celebrate dads.

However, you are forgiven if you're a little confused about the exact date of the holiday. The reason being, it varies from country to country.

The majority of countries, including the US, UK, India and Philippines, traditionally celebrate Father's Day on the third Sunday of June. It means that while the day remains consistent, a Sunday, the date for international Father's Day is constantly changing. It fell on June 16 in 2019, June 21 in 2020 and, this year, it is scheduled to fall on June 20.

However, not all countries celebrate Father's Day on the same day. In the UAE – as well as Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan – Father's Day is celebrated on June 21 every year.

Many European countries, including Croatia, Italy, Spain and Portugal, celebrate it on March 19. Meanwhile, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea mark the occassion on the first Sunday of September.

Father's Day is typically celebrated with gifts, sweet treats and fun activities. Courtesy Sugargram
Father's Day is typically celebrated with gifts, sweet treats and fun activities. Courtesy Sugargram

There isn't much information on the discrepancy, other than the fact that countries have their own cultures and seasons, which have inadvertently influenced the date.

History of Father’s Day

The credit for the conception of Father's Day goes to a woman.

Some believe it's down to American Grace Golden Clayton, a West Virginia resident who suggested a one-time memorial to pay tribute to the 361 victims, 200 of which were fathers, of a coal-mining disaster that occurred in December 1907.

In 1908, Clayton chose July 5 as the day for the memorial service (as it was the Sunday closest to her own father's birthday). To this day, a plaque hangs outside the church in Fairmont, West Virginia, that reads "First Father's Day service".

However, this isn't commonly accepted as the start of the Father's Day tradition we have today.

Instead, it is Sonora Smart Dodd, daughter of American civil war veteran William Jackson Smart, who is heralded as the founder of Father’s Day.

Dodd's mother died when she was a child, leaving her father to single-handedly raise her and her five brothers. After hearing much praise for Mother's Day and its importance, she decided to lobby church and public officials for the creation of a separate Father's Day, an idea that was popular with both groups.

While originally supposed to take place on June 5, 1910, her father’s birthday, it got pushed to the third Sunday of the month to be more convenient for local pastors.

In the years that followed, the annual event grew in popularity, and Dodd lived to see then-US president Richard Nixon make it a national holiday in 1972. Dodd died in 1978, with her gravestone reading, "Founder of Father's Day".