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Tony Öhberg
Father’s Day is now an official flag day. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Finland takes a leap forward in celebrating gender equality after the government on Thursday, as one of their last decisions before the elections, has decided to elevate Father’s Day to the status of an official flag day.

Father’s Day has been found in the Finnish almanac since 1970, while Mother’s Day has been celebrated since 1918. Mother’s Day became an official flag day in 1947.

Both parental celebrations, however, share the same country of origin: The United States.

Anna Jarvis is widely considered the creator of Mother’s Day. After losing her mother, she started widely promoting a celebration to honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

She wanted to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Finally, through her efforts, US President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure, which made the second Sunday in May official Mother’s Day in 1914.

The origin of Father’s Day was inspired by the celebration day of mothers but the idea started spreading slowly.

According to the history books, in 1909 Sonora Smart Dodd was moved to tears while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon with her father who, after her mother died during childbirth, had raised her and five brothers by himself.

There should be a day to celebrate father’s, too, she thought.

Dodd’s idea started slowly gaining momentum across the country, and when it became a subject of political debate US Senator Margaret Chase Smith said:

“Either we honor both our parents, mother and father, or let us desist from honoring either one. But to single out just one of our two parents and omit the other is the most grievous insult imaginable.”

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to start observing Father’s Day.

The idea of a honor day for fathers spread slowly to Europe. The universal thought seemed to be that fathers don’t have the same sentimental appeal as mothers.

In Finland, it wasn’t until 1979, when a few national-minded unions managed to sell the idea that it could be nice to see flags hoisted for fathers too. Eight years later it became an established flag day.

And now, 32 years after, it’s an official flag day on the second Sunday of November.

Sources: History, Uusi ajantieto (WSOY, 1989)