FFE Magazine

Father’s Day Around the World

Every year we take our fathers out to their favourite restaurants, give valuable gifts and send loving packages and cards to our dads, lolos and all the fathers in our lives. The third Sunday of June is regarded by many countries around the world as Father’s Day, a day to give love and thanks to the haligi ng tahanan.


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But why do we do it, and where did it all begin?


What and when

Father’s Day is not an official holiday in the Philippines, but it is widely observed among many Filipinos. Celebrations range from small gift-giving occasions, telephone calls and cards, lunch or dinner out, family get-togethers and grander festivities. Often, the father does not pay for the Father’s Day treat. Instead, his family shoulders the expenses, giving the dad a break from being the ‘giver’ and provider of the family.


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Father’s Day in the Philippines and several countries around the world falls on the third Sunday of June. Many countries tie father’s day celebrations with more traditional religious and cultural celebrations like:

  • Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia, 23 February
  • Parent’s Day in South Korea, 8 May
  • Ascension Day in Germany, 40th day of Easter
  • King’s Birthday in Thailand, date depends on the birthdate of the reigning king



Father’s Day is a non-traditional holiday that takes its roots from its complementary holiday, Mother’s Day.


In 1909, 4 years after the first ever Mother’s Day celebration in West Virginia, Sonora Smart Dodd heard about Mother’s Day and thought a similar celebration should be held for fathers.  Sonora wanted to honour her father especially: Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, a single parent who raised 6 kids on his own.


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William Jackson Smart, the father who inspired Father’s Day


Sonora’s plan was to get her pastors in Spokane, Washington to write sermons for her father in time for his birthday on 5 June 1910. But because the pastors wanted more time to prepare their sermons, the date was moved to the third Sunday of June.


The first celebration of Father’s Day was held on 19 June 1910 at the Spokane YMCA. The novel idea led Sonora to promote father’s day celebrations in the next decade. But her campaigns fell around the 1920s when she grew busier with her studies.


In the 1930s, Sonora picked up where she left off and promoted Father’s Day to the national level. This second round of promotions gained greater attraction since she got help from businesses that would profit from the holiday, including manufacturers of ties, pipes and men’s wear. A group of promoters called Father’s Day Council was then established to push for the holiday.


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At first, the response had been sarcastic since Americans believed it was just a spin-off of the success of Mother’s Day. Eventually, with the persistence of lawmakers which saw the value of the holiday for fathers, President Lyndon Johnson released a proclamation in 1966 designating the third Sunday of June as a day to honour fathers.


In 1972, President Richard Nixon finally signed a law that made Father’s Day a permanent holiday in America.


The popularity of Father’s Day celebrations in America soon spread worldwide as American influence reached other countries through globalisation.


Father’s Day in the Philippines

Father’s Day was first reflected in Philippine law books when in 1980 Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No 2037 stating that Father’s Day should be celebrated on the first Sunday of every year (he likewise proclaimed the first Monday of every year to be Mother’s Day).


Corazon Aquino revoked this proclamation when she became president. Instead, she released Proclamation No 266 in 1988 stating that Father’s Day should be celebrated every third Sunday of June (and Mother’s Day every second Monday of May).


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Grandfathers (lolos) are not forgotten in Filipino Father’s Day


Father’s Day is not a legal holiday in the Philippines and is therefore celebrated at the discretion of the ordinary Filipino. However, because of tight family values, Filipinos consider it unkind if a person doesn’t at least greet his or her father on Father’s Day.


Here is how other nations around the world celebrate Father’s Day:



Father’s Day in Australia is celebrated every first Sunday of Spring, around September. Ceremonies honouring fathers who’ve shown outstanding parenting through Father of the Year awards are common in many municipalities.



In Denmark, Father’s Day falls on the same day as the national holiday Danish Constitution Day. The double celebration for dads is often spent on picnics and visits to museums that give free admission and discounts to families bringing their dads.


Estonia and Finland

In the northeastern EU countries of Estonia and Finland, Father’s Day is a national holiday as it coincides with Flag Day which falls every second Sunday of November.




Father’s Day in Germany coincides with the federal holiday Ascension Day, which commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven, who, according to the Nicene Creed, then sits on the right hand of the Father.


The religious aspect of the celebration is however lost among many German dads who would rather spend the day enjoying beers and ham. Fathers would also take the following Friday off, giving them a long weekend vacation.


Italy, Spain and Portugal

Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese celebrate Father’s Day on the Feast of St Joseph every 19 March. Aside from celebrations commemorating fathers, Catholics in these countries also remember St Joseph’s vital role as Jesus’ step-father.



Nepali Hindu Ritual

Nepalese preparing for Gokarna Aunsi (Father’s Day) rites


The Nepalese have integrated the Western Father’s Day celebration into their traditional lunar event called Gokarna Aunsi, which usually falls in August or September. Gokarna Aunsi commemorates the reincarnation of the Hindu god Shiva and is also known as Bubako mukh herne din or ‘day to look at father’s face.’ On this day, sons touch their father’s feet with their forehead while daughters touch their father’s hand. Both sons and daughters then look into their father’s eyes. These are all done to honour the father.


On the day of the new moon, families also pay their respects to their deceased fathers.



Restaurants are particularly busy in Netherlands every Father’s Day. Eating out is a popular way to celebrate the occasion. Children often also give their dads breakfast in bed, handicrafts and other gifts.


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Father’s Day in Thailand



Romania is the only EU nation that celebrates Father’s Day as an official holiday. This has been done through the efforts of the Alliance Fighting Discrimination Against Fathers (TATA). It falls every second Sunday of May.


Taiwan and China

While the Western date of Father’s Day is often observed among Mandarin Chinese families in Taiwan and China, 8 August is still considered a special day to celebrate fathers. This is because 8 August or ‘8/8’ is pronounced ‘bā- bā.’ The pronunciation is the same as the character ‘bà’ which means ‘father.’



The Thai people honour their king as their father on the date of his birthday. Father’s Day currently falls on 5 December, the birthday of reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). On this day the Thais wear the colour of the day the king was born (yellow for Monday). They also light candles as a sign of respect for the king.





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