In the United States this year, Father’s Day fell on Sunday, June 20. Some families throw a party, while others barbecue and reminisce. However, around the world, this special day differs, not only in terms of when it’s celebrated but also how. Learn more about Father’s Day around the world, from Germany to Thailand.
The History of Father’s Day
The first-ever national Father’s Day in the United States was celebrated on June 19, 1910, in the state of Washington—but was not yet official.
This day was initiated by Sonora Dodd who wanted to establish an equivalent day to Mother’s Day for all the male parents across the country. After seeking support from local shops, churches, the YMCA, and the government, the first major celebration took place in 1910.
Over the years, many changes occurred, and at one point, many rallied to create a single holiday—Parents’ Day. Following the Great Depression, shop owners began to advertise Father’s Day like a “second Christmas” for men with children, selling everything from pipes and tobacco to golf clubs and hats.
It wasn’t until 1972, 58 years after Mother’s Day became official, that Father’s Day became a nationwide holiday.
Today, Father’s Day in the United States is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, bringing in $17 billion in 2020—but that is not the case everywhere. In some areas of Latin America and Europe, Father’s Day falls on St. Joseph’s Day, a traditional Catholic holiday.
As you travel around the globe, here’s how Father’s Day is celebrated.
Germany – Vatertag
In Germany, fathers get the day off work to drink beer and enjoy little to no responsibility. Known as Vatertag (or Männertag), this fun-filled day for men, lands on the fortieth day after Easter, on a Thursday in May.
In 2021, that day was May 13. Since the Friday after Vatertag is usually a Brückentag (bridge day), this gives fathers a four-day weekend.
The holiday actually first started in the Middle Ages as a religious ceremony honoring Gott, den Vater (God, the father). It wasn’t until the 1700s, the day transformed into Vatertag, a family day honoring the fathers of each household.
The father with the most children in the village would receive a reward—often a ham. Although Vatertag fizzled out for some time, it made a strong comeback in the 19th century, being labeled as Männertag — transitioning to more of a “boys’ day out.”
Some of the most popular ways to spend this day include:
- Pub tours
- Heavy indulgence in food and drink
- Beer bike or wagon tours
- Park gatherings to grill, play games, and drink
Brazil – Dia do Pais
In Brazil, Father’s Day falls on the second Sunday in August. In 2021, that is August 8. This day, known as Dia dos Pais, first began in the mid-1950s. The idea was to honor Saint Joachim, the patron of fathers and grandfathers.
Much like in the United States, children often purchase their fathers a unique gift. They also often make a gift to honor their fathers in school. Some schools will also put on special concerts or ceremonies. A large lunch is often prepared and families often participate in one of many outings.
Since Father’s Day lands on a Sunday, it is not a public holiday and fathers do not get a day off work. Most businesses also follow regular hours.
Thailand – Wan Por
Father’s Day in Thailand is unique in that it’s celebrated on December 5. This day commemorates King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the country’s longest-serving monarch. It is an official public holiday, representing the King’s birthday and Father’s Day.
This is because the King was seen by many as the symbolic father of Thailand. The people of Thailand pay respect to their fathers and grandfathers on this day, often giving them a canna flower or “dok phuttha raksa”—which is similar to a lily.
For years, nationwide celebrations would take place to honor the King. Many Thais would camp out the night before, often wearing yellow. The color represents Monday, the day that the King was born in 1927.
Activities take place across the country, and the Bangkok Mass Transit System allows fathers to travel for free when accompanied by their children. This is meant to encourage family bonding time.
Costa Rica – Día Del Padre
In Costa Rica, the country celebrates Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June, just as Americans do. Costa Ricans celebrate the fathers who are both living and passed on, as well as the single mothers who fill both roles.
There aren’t any particular traditions, other than family time. Some years, Father’s Day shares the spotlight with the World Cup. In 2018, Costa Rica was playing Serbia—and many fathers spent their day watching the game.
Many countries celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June, much like Costa Rica and the United States! This includes several other Latin American countries, including Argentina, Peru, and Colombia.
Father’s Day Dates Around the Globe
Many other countries celebrate Father’s Day, but the date often varies:
- Norway – “Farsdag” is celebrated on the second Sunday in November
- France – “Fête des Pères” is celebrated on the third Sunday in June
- Australia, New Zealand, Fiji – “Father’s Day” is celebrated on the first Sunday of September
- Italy – “Festa del Papà” is celebrated on March 19th—the same date as in Spain and Portugal
- Iceland – “Feðradagurinn” is celebrated on the second Sunday in November
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