A History of Father’s Day (and Beer)
Everything you need to know about the history of Father’s Day, and when beer came into the equation!
By Emma Zhao on Jun. 17, 2022
Every third Sunday of every June, Americans and Canadians honor the hard work and sacrifice that their fathers make in their community. As the decades passed, a culture began to surround the day for fatherly appreciation. Now, father’s day is most associated with weirdly printed ties, handy tools, and of course, beer.
While many people celebrate Father’s Day every year, few know the woman behind it, or why beer is one of the most popular Father’s Day gifts.
The Origins of Father’s Day
Mother’s Day: The Inspiration
Mother’s Day as we know has roots in the Civil War, particularly during the peace and reconciliation campaigns. The activist, Ann Reeves Jarvis, is credited as the initiator of the first Mother’s Day manifestation. In the 1860s, she urged a town in West Virginia to celebrate “Mother’s Work Day,” which brought together the mothers of Confederation and Union soldiers.
However, Mother’s Day only became a holiday in 1908, when Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis, organized the first Mother’s Day gathering at the John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia.
Later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson approved that every second Sunday of May, Mother’s Day was to be celebrated for “that gentle, tender army, the mothers of America.”
What became apparent during the founding of Mother’s Day, was the importance of retailers and shops, as they saw significant increases in sales during the holiday. This is something that would become important for the campaign of Father’s Day as well, and might explain the popularity of beer on Father’s Day.
The campaign for Father’s Day was met with less enthusiasm than the campaign for Mother’s Day. In July 1908, a church in West Virginia held the first event that specifically honored fathers. It was a Sunday sermon to recognize the 362 men who had died in a mine explosion.
A year after that, a woman from Spokane, Washington, named Sonora Smart Dodd, started a 62-year campaign to recognize Father’s Day as a holiday. She visited local shops, churches, and government officials, and was able to establish the first statewide celebration of Father’s Day in 1910.
The holiday caught on through the decades, and in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to celebrate Father’s Day, thus making it a nationwide holiday.
The Commercializing of Father’s Day
During the 1920s and 1930s, there was an effort to combine Mother’s day and Father’s Day into one single holiday: Parents’ Day. However, as this was during the Great Depression, the effort inevitably fell flat. Retailers were struggling to make a living, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were able to bring in two ends of commercialized sales.
In fact, retailers doubled their efforts to commercialize Father’s Day, by promoting goods such as neckties, socks, pipes, golf supplies, etc.
So when did beer become popular on Father’s Day?
While there is no specific date that beer became such a popular gift for Father’s Day, we can assume that, at least in America, it probably didn’t stick until after Prohibition. More specifically, Americans would’ve derived this tradition from Germany.
In Germany, Father’s Day, also known as Vatertag, typically involves a day of beer biking and heavy drinking. Vatertag occurs every year on the 40th day after Easter on a Thursday.
German fathers take their drinking very seriously. As a national holiday, German fathers will drink heavily on Thursday, and rest the following Friday, which is known as Bruckentag (bridge day). This means that Father’s Day in Germany is a four-day long weekend, with enough room for heavy drinking and recovery over hangovers.
Ironically, Father’s Day in Germany had rather noble beginnings, In the Middle Ages, it started as a ceremony to honor God. As the 1700s came along, the holiday shifted to recognize the father in the household. Men would often be carted around their villages, and men with children would be awarded a ham.
While Father’s Day did lose its popularity during the century, it made a resurgence in the 19th century, with an emphasis on partying.
Some popular activities for Vatertag include:
- Pub tours
A group bike ride on a Bollerwagen, also known as a “beer bike”
- Eating, drinking, and touring Biergartens
- Celebrating in a beer hall
Now that’s a lot of beer! However, heavy drinking often involves lots of mistakes. According to the UDV (German insurers accident research institute), there are around three times as many traffic accidents involving alcohol.
If you’re thinking of taking your dad out to a local pub this year, make sure to not let him drive, even if he is the dad!
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