Father’s Day is not celebrated all over the world on the same day. This day, to honor Fathers, was first recognized in the United States. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Father’s Day a national holiday celebrated on the third Sunday in June. Not until 1972, under President Richard Nixon, did it become an official national holiday. To be fair, there is not only a Mother’s Day, but also a day on which fathers are honored. The difference however, currently in Germany, is that all men celebrate Father’s Day regardless of whether they are a father or not.
Father’s Day is very popular in Germany and always falls on Christi Himmelfahrt, “Ascension Day,” when “Gott, den Vater” is honored. Today, Germany’s Vatertag is closer to a “boys day out.” Since 1936, this public holiday is celebrated 40 days after Easter and is called Father’s Day, Men’s Day or Lord’s Day. Since it falls on a Thursday, with Friday as a bank holiday, there are family oriented events that take place over the long weekend.
All men young and old, married and single, look forward to this day of hiking, eating, drinking and participating in pub crawls (Männerrrunde), rather than a more family-oriented celebration. In larger cities, it has become fashionable in recent years to rent a Beer Bike: up to 16 people sit alongside a keg of beer so they can drink together as they peddle trough the city streets. Most prefer a more traditional method of getting around. Wagons and wheelbarrows are pulled through the woods and fields filled with food and, of course, a good supply of beer and alcohol.
On Father’s Day, it is best not to drive your car or motorcycle in Germany. According to the Federal Statistics Office, this day has the most alcohol related traffic accidents every year. Three times more than any other day of the year.
It may seem that there is no religious connection any more, but the day is still based on a biblical story. The biblical basis is found in the Gospels of Mark, Luke and Acts of the Apostles, in which it is told that the risen Son of God, who had appeared to his disciples for 40 days after rising from the dead, was lifted up by a cloud and ascended into the heavens.
In Austria, Father’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in June, and just like Mother’s Day, it is an occasion to buy flowers and small gifts. Father’s Day was celebrated for the first time in Austria in 1955 and continues to grow in popularity.
In Switzerland, Father’s Day was sporadically celebrated in areas bordering Germany. In 2007, a so-called Father’s Day was introduced and is now unofficially celebrated on the first Sunday in June across the country. The initiator’s intent was to bring an awareness and appreciation of paternal commitment to society and the work place. On the first Father’s Day, held on June 17, 2007, the media reported on regional events making political demands on behalf of fathers. In 2008, the focus was on reconciliation of the family. More recently it has become a celebration of fathers and their value, not only to the family, but to society in general.
Father’s Day is a special day of honor for fathers and therefore, he should be respected on his celebratory day. The whole family; adult children, small children and grandchildren, should reflect on the many things their father has done by showing appreciation and gratitude. Kind words, a helping hand, or just sitting and listening to an aging father, is a unique way for all of us to recognize the value of selfless giving.