Sa’ad Ahmed Shaikh
Father’s Day has been around since the Middle Ages, when it was celebrated on St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th) in Catholic Europe. Over the years, many countries have adopted this tradition. Most countries like those in Europe and America celebrate it on the third Sunday of June, while a few like Spain, Portugal, and Latin American countries continue to celebrate it on March 19th. Let’s have a look at the varying traditions spread across the world concerning this significant occasion.
Father’s Day (Vatertag) in Germany is celebrated in a distinct manner, quite different from the rest of the world. It is observed on Ascension Day (the Thursday 40 days after Easter); it’s a federal holiday. It is also referred to as, Men’s Day or Gentlemen’s Day(Männertag and Herrentag). The traditional approach involves a male group embarking on a hiking tour, manually dragging one or more small wagons(Bollerwagen). The wagons are filled with alcoholic beverages and other traditional food. The opportunity is often used by men to get drunk.
Father’s Day in Australia is celebrated on the first Sunday of September. The reason behind the September placement pertains to the retail and marketing sector. April to June is stacked with a number of holidays, as is December and January. Owing to this ‘holiday fatigue’, September proves to be the most convenient option and it also coincides with the beginning of Spring. The coming of Spring also seems to decide the various gifts related to the season, like camping, fishing, and sports equipment. Families come together for a meal and a day out to show their appreciation for fathers.
In China, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, like most countries. However, it is not widely observed among the Chinese, though some expatriates may celebrate it. Before the People’s Republic, during the reign of the Republic of China(1912-1949), Father’s Day was observed on August 8th. Eight (8) in the regional language is ba(八); thus, August being the 8th month, the date would be spoken as ba ba, which colloquially sounds similar to the regional term for father(ba-ba, 爸爸). It is still recognised on this date in areas under the control of the Republic of China, such as Taiwan.
France has an amusing history with its modern-day commemoration of Father’s Day. In 1946, a gas-lighter company, Flaminaire, was founded in Brittany by Marcel Quercia. Owing to the low sales, Quercia began advertising its lighters under the banner of Father’s Day in 1949 on the third Sunday of June, just like the American celebration. The slogans for the campaign read…
‘Nos papas nous l’ont dit, pour la fête des pères, ils désirent tous un Flaminaire‘(Our fathers told us, for father’s day, they all want is a Flaminaire).
It gained traction and in three years Father’s Day was officially decreed into existence on the same date. Families gather together for the whole day to acknowledge the importance of the father-figure in the family. It is usually a quiet event.
Father’s Day tradition in Nepal has a religious significance in its majority population of Hindus. It is celebrated according to the lunar calendar and thus usually falls in late August or early September. The occasion is known as Gokarna Aunsi, where gokarna and aunsi literally mean ‘cow-eared’ and ‘no moon night’ in Nepali. Hindus worship the cow-eared incarnations of Lord Shiv, and pay respects to their fathers. It is also called Buwaako mukh herne din which means ‘day for looking at father’s face’; this is because of the tradition where sons touch their father’s feet with their forehead before in his eyes, while daughters simply touch their father’s hand before doing the same. Fathers are also presented with gifts by their children. Many go to the famous Shiv Temple near Kathmandu where they bathe and perform rites on the day following the new moon. People whose fathers have passed away, too, visit to carry out Yearly Death Rituals.
Thailand’s Father’s Day is honoured on the birthday of the king, the last event being held on December 5th, the birthday of the late king, Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). Though not widely practiced today, tradition had the people presenting fathers with the Canna Flower, which is considered to be a masculine flower. The whole country is decorated lavishly and the skies are brought alive with extravagant fireworks; it is a National holiday, unlike most other countries of the world. As the late king’s birthday fell on a Monday; people wore yellow as it was the colour of that particular weekday. The late king used to give his trademark birthday speeches addressing his subjects. People gather at main avenues in their respective areas to pay respects to the king.
It is now well-established that Father’s Day all over the world, though differing in some key concepts, is a significant occasion: it celebrates the same core value of honouring the father-figures that play a pivotal role in any institution.