Father's Day (Vatertag) in Switzerland and abroad: A brief history

Father's Day (Vatertag) in Switzerland and abroad: A brief history

Father’s Day is an annual holiday honouring fatherhood and paternal bonds that is celebrated in many countries around the world, including Switzerland. The nature of the holiday has changed throughout the ages, from its origins in the 1500s in Europe to the modern Father's Day that the world has come to celebrate every year. 

Father's Day 2024 

Father's Day typically takes place in June every year. However, the date is slightly different in Switzerland than in the rest of Europe (and indeed the world).

International Father's Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, which in 2024 is June 16, but in the German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland, it is traditionally observed on the first Sunday of June. In 2024, therefore, most of Switzerland will celebrate Father's Day on June 2. 

The history of Father’s Day

The earliest evidence of Father's Day is from 1508, when a customary day for the recognition of fatherhood was first recorded in Catholic Europe. It was typically celebrated on March 19, the day of the feast of Saint Joseph, who is referred to as the fatherly “Nourisher of the Lord” in Catholicism and the “putative father of Jesus” in regions of southern Europe.

However, the first official "Father's Day" did not come until much later, in the 20th century. 

The story goes that after social activist Anna Jarvis proposed an official Mother's Day in the early 1900s, some began to call for an official equivalent to be established for fathers. In 1908, Grace Golden Clayton proposed a day to honour the 362 men who lost their lives in a mining accident in the United States. A memorial was held in a church in West Virginia. 

Then, in 1909, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, who was raised by a single father along with her five brothers, was inspired to create a holiday to honour fathers. She held the first Father's Day celebration at the YMCA in Spokane, Washington. The annual celebration would later be attended by President Woodrow Wilson, who promised to get the day recognised at the national level. Over the following decades, the day became more widely accepted, but it wasn't until 1972 that it was declared an official national holiday by President Richard Nixon.  

Father's Day in Switzerland (Vatertag)

In Switzerland, Father’s Day was not formally introduced until 2007, and it was in 2009 that Swiss Father’s Day was officially recognised as taking place on the first Sunday in June. Interestingly, in the Swiss canton of Ticino and the Principality of Liechtenstein, Father’s Day is still celebrated on March 19, keeping with the 1500s tradition of celebrating fatherhood on the same day as the feast of Saint Joseph.

Although the various cantons and Swiss cities celebrate on different days, a lot of the traditions are the same. Fathers will receive roses and pastries, and spend time with their children and loved ones while eating some great food. Families may also show appreciation by getting their father a nice gift or treating them to an activity or day out. 

Father’s Day traditions around the world

Many countries around the globe have their own interesting Father's Day traditions. Here are some of the most fascinating ones.

In Germany, Father's Day does not take place in June, but usually in May on Ascension Day, which is a public holiday in Germany. This tradition is down to the fact that Jesus was believed to ascend to heaven, to rejoin his father, on this day. In Germany, celebrations are all about hanging out with other men and drinking beer! In most German cities, you will be able to find dads chugging beer and celebrating well into the night. 

In Thailand, Father’s Day is celebrated on December 5 to celebrate King Bhumibol, who is the honorary father of Thailand. Throughout the country, fathers receive canna flowers, a sacred flower that is believed to bring protection.

In Mexico, Father’s Day is a fiesta in late June. In Mexico City, Father’s Day is celebrated with a race called the Carrera del Dia del Padre. On this day, fathers are gifted trinkets and gifts from their children and loved ones.

In the Netherlands, Father’s Day is also celebrated in June, and families generally take their dad out to a nice picnic or barbecue if the weather allows for it, along with getting them a nice gift with a sweet card.

How is Father's Day celebrated in your home country? Let us know in the comments below!

Eesha Wirk


Eesha Wirk

Eesha studied in the United States, obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Neuroscience and Studio Art. She is currently getting her Research Masters in Cognitive Neuropsychology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In...

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