Father’s Day, a celebration that goes back to the Middle Ages

Sunday, June 17, 2012, French children will celebrate Fête des Pères  – Father’s Day and will offer paper neckties and bowties, pencil holders and frames made with love with the re-used cardboard of their cereal boxes or will simply spend a large amount of their pocket money in the many gift shops that offer already made and expensive gifts.

Father’s Day is not a recent invention as it was already celebrated during the Middle Ages in many Catholic countries including France. But it was celebrated on March 19, the day of Saint Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.

Father’s Day re-invented by a brand of lighters

This religious festival was lost over the generations to re-emerge in the 20th century.
Unlike Mother’s Day, which was established to celebrate women of course but also to encourage them to repopulate France after the two world wars, the Fête des Pères was re-invented for purely commercial reasons by a Breton brand of lighters!
Yes, I said a Breton brand of lighters called Flaminaire!

Father's Day gift - paper tie
Father's Day gift - paper tie

Flaminaire commercialised the first conventional lighters in 1908. The lighter, first a luxury object, never ceased to evolve and its use became widespread during the First World War.

At the end of the Second World War consumer society was booming and people discovered the concept of gifts, a move that quickly became a social obligation. As in those times most men smoked, offering a lighter to their Dads for Father’s Day became a standard practice for children. Luminaire invested into a large scale advertising campaign, thus creating the habit of offering a lighter to men.

Father’s Day was instituted in 1952, two years after Mother’s Day became an official celebration, but has never been formalized, even if it is celebrated each year on the third Sunday of June!

In addition to the various gifts, it is also a tradition to offer roses, the symbol flower of Father’s Day but there is a code to follow. Red roses are offered to a father who is alive, and white roses are placed on the grave of a deceased Dad.

Many detractors see in Father’s Day, which is an unofficial celebration, the expression of abusive and tacky marketing and they could be right but Father’s Day celebration is an integral part of our culture and traditions and is primarily an opportunity to show our love and affection to our Dads.

Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the French Dads and the others.


Read more

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About the author

I am French Parisienne and lived in Asia for nearly 20 years before settling in the UK 3 years ago. I have an interest in everything and every culture and am an avid reader. French linguistics is my "specialty" but I have a passion for history and try to mingle them. Humour is very important to me, I love writing, talking, laughing, exchanging ideas, learning more from others... the world is full of fascinating people! I never leave my home without my camera, there is always something unusual, beautiful or strange to capture. I like to pay attention to details, to the world of the "small", a parallel world if you take the time to look for it...And above all, I love my country of birth, France.