Though the tenor is different, Father’s Day is a holiday that shares a spirit with its female counterpart, Mother’s Day. In lieu of the flowers, chocolates, clothing, or accessories traditionally given to women, fathers can expect gifts such as sports equipment or gadgets from the people that they have helped raise. If warmth, nurture, and emotionally honesty are values that are celebrated in mothers, fathers are commonly praised for their strength, leadership, and fortitude on Father’s Day.
But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day alike have another, less well-known fact in common: they both coincide with the health advocacy campaigns of National Women’s Health Week and National Men’s Health Week, respectively. As such, the months of May and June serve as valuable opportunities to toast to our parents’ good health as well as their success in raising us.
If we revisit Father’s Day in light of our wishes for our fathers, it’s an ideal culmination date for National Men’s Health Week. Read on below to learn more about the history of Father’s Day, its present-day importance during the National Men’s Health Week, and how you can commemorate fatherhood, men’s health, and positive masculinity with your dads this June!
Father’s Day: Dates, Places, and People to Remember
Among Catholics, paternal guardians are celebrated on the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, who is also the patron saint of fathers, good husbands, craftsmen, and engineers. St. Joseph’s feast day is on March 19, and it is a widely celebrated holiday in Latin America and in some parts of Europe.
As for the roots of the secular Father’s Day holiday in America, they can be tied in part to Mother’s Day. The latter is associated with post-Civil war organizing and peacekeeping efforts done by mother and daughter Ann Reeves Jarvis and Anna Jarvis. The Jarvis’s efforts eventually led to the institutionalization of Mother’s Day as a holiday in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson.
But efforts to establish a male parents’ counterpart had been in place since 1908. One West Virginia Church dedicated a sermon to fathers who had died in a major Fairmont Coal Company mine explosion in December of 1907. In 1909, a Spokane-based citizen named Sonora Smart Dodd, who was raised along with five other siblings by a widower, lobbied to government officials, storeowners, and church leaders to formally recognize American fathers.
Such efforts were rewarded at the very first statewide Father’s Day celebration on June 19, 1910. President Wilson, who also instituted Mother’s Day, made arrangements to unfurl a dedicated flag in Spokane, Washington for Father’s Day. One of his successors, President Calvin Coolidge, enjoined the rest of the US government to observe the holiday as well.
The idea of a “father’s day,” however, did not catch on as quickly. People from the retail sector—such as neighborhood florists—didn’t estimate profits as strong as the ones they would incur on Mother’s Day. They assumed that customers wouldn’t buy sentimental gifts for their fathers with the same fervor that they would afford to their mothers.
In any case, early opponents of Father’s Day were proven wrong. Father’s Day became a source of revenue for small-scale retailers in the time of the Great Depression, as it was an opportunity to sell sporting goods, clothing, haberdashery, tobacco, and other items in light of a “second Christmas” for men. The holiday also assumed a new poignancy in light of sacrifices made by World War veterans, many of whom were fathers in the line of duty. President Nixon ultimately declared Father’s Day a federal holiday in 1972.
About National Men’s Health Week: A “By-the-Numbers” Campaign
The formal institution of Father’s Day may seem fairly recent, but the campaign that adjoins it—National Men’s Health Week—is even more recent in comparison. Nevertheless, the event has gained traction worldwide, is quite visible on digital platforms such as social media, and endorsed on promotional materials like custom wristbands, hats, pins, and ribbons.
National Men’s Health Week was launched by the Men’s Health Network on the global level in 2002, when they met in Vienna, Austria for the 2nd World Congress on Men’s Health. Based on the agreement the European Men’s Health Forum came to in Austria, otherwise known as the “Vienna Declaration,” the five action points for men’s health are:
This celebration of men’s health will kick off on June 10, or “Blue Monday,” and end on June 16, the Sunday of Father’s Day. National Men’s Health Week also adopts unique themes per year, and the theme for this 2019 is “men’s health by numbers.”
The choice of theme seems particularly fitting for this generation of fathers. They are the ones who are enthusiastic about “keeping score,” whether it’s at a sporting event or with the specs on the latest gadget. As far as numbers are concerned, some of those listed by the Men’s Health Forum in the UK are handy and interesting: 5 is the number of fruits and vegetable portions a man should consume daily in to stay healthy, 120/80 is the normal blood pressure for men, and 14 units is the limit to a man’s weekly intake of alcohol.
But some numbers indicate darker, direr facts about the current state of men’s health. 1 in 5 men are destined to die before the age of 65, 3 out of 4 recorded deaths by suicide are of men, and 10 years is the average time period that a rich man will outlive a poorer man.
Four Ways to Promote National Men’s Health Week in Light of Father’s Day
According to the History Channel, there are more than 70 million fathers in the United States of America, and as much as $1 billion is spent on Father’s Day gifts every year. You may want to allot some of this time, money, and effort to securing a meaningful gift for your dad: his health and the health of his fellowmen. Here are five constructive ways that you can do so during National Men’s Health Week!
Use the Time to Get His Physical Health Checked Up and Screened
The first thing that you can do is to help the men in your life, especially your father figures (dads, uncles, grandfathers) seek better health. Accompany them to health checkups and testing, whether they are in line with National Men’s Health Week’s frontrunner advocacies (prostate cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, health in the workplace) or a separate health condition that may be troubling them. On the one hand, you’ll be acting on the statistics that denote “men’s health by the numbers”; on the other hand, you’ll be supporting them through phases in their health that they might have difficulty opening up about.
Supplement Physical Health with Mental Health Discourse among Men
On the subject of opening up, it’s a recurrent issue in men’s mental health as well. According to statistics from Mental Health America, 6 million males are afflicted by depression every year—and most cases are left undiagnosed. Talking about mental health may require a shift in mindset for the older generation of fathers, as they were often taught to “man up” and keep their troubles to themselves. But you can counter this by fostering an environment where they can talk about their symptoms, their perceived weaknesses, and their fears without being judged, belittled, or rebuked.
Join Advocacy Events in Your Community
Your community may be holding a fun run, a community walk, a pledge, or other socio-civic activity in light of National Men’s Health Week. What better way to celebrate than to take your dad, uncle, grandfather, and the rest of your family to participate and have a great time? You can also show your solidarity at these events by wearing a blue shirt (such as on Blue Monday), a blue ribbon for prostate cancer awareness, or a wristband with a custom message promoting men’s health.
Lobby for Positive Change on Issues that Affect Men’s Health
National Men’s Health Week is also an opportune time to reflect on social realities that make a dad’s job more difficult than it already is: inequality, deprivation, lack of accessibility to healthcare and funding, and the like. Choose a cause to lobby for, as well as a local partner who can support you (be it a politician, an advocacy center, or an NGO). Look to your father figures for inspiration to pursue a better, more caring, and more supportive sociopolitical environment.
Lastly, don’t forget to thank the men in your life not only for their performance of so-called masculine virtues, such as being physically strong and being breadwinners. Acknowledge their complementary roles to the other nurturers in your life, praise them for forming you like they have, and fulfill their wish to spend many more years taking care of you.
Happy Father’s Day and happy National Men’s Health Week to all the men who make our lives go round!
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