Hallmark holidays debunked: the stories behind Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

With Mother’s Day coming up and Father’s Day shortly after, here’s a look at the origins of these two “Hallmark holidays” — and how they actually have nothing to do with cards or TV channels.

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Who will you be gushing over in your cards this year?

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You may have heard the term “Hallmark holiday” as a way to describe those seemingly random, extra days of celebration and gift giving. While there are certainly lots of cards involved, Hallmark actually has no part in the creation of these holidays. We would also like to add:

  1. Each holiday has a unique history
  2. There’s never a bad time to give someone a card
  3. You gotta fight for your right to party

With Mother’s Day coming up and Father’s Day shortly after, here’s a look at the origins of these two holidays — abridged.

Mother’s Day

This day of matriarchs all started with (you guessed it) a mother. Ann Reeves Jarvis was an 1800s activist and organizer. In 1858, she created Mothers’ Day Work Clubs to improve sanitary conditions and curb infant mortality. After the Civil War, she organized Mothers’ Friendship Day, where veterans from the North and South came together for the first time in years.

After Ann died in 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, organized the first formal “Mother’s Day” commemoration in honor of her mom on the second Sunday in May. It becomes an official West Viriginia holiday in 1910, and President Woodrow Wilson made it national in 1914.

Father’s Day

Dads actually owe their special day to the moms. After hearing a sermon on the topic of Mother’s Day, Sonora Smart Dodd wanted to honor her father, who raised six kids after their mom died during childbirth. Sonora convinced local religious leaders, and the first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19 (Sonora’s dad’s birthday).

The celebration spread, and President Calvin Coolidge gave his support in 1924. However, it wasn’t until 1972 that it became a national holiday on every third Sunday of June under President Richard Nixon.

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