Cultural historians suspect that the precursor of Father's Day was the ancient Roman holiday of Parentalia, a festival in honor of deceased parents, which occurred between the 13th and 22nd of February. During that period many ceremonies were held, according to the poet Ovid, "to appease the souls of your fathers."
For the ancient Egyptians Geb, the earth god, was the father of the gods and represented abundance and authority, while in the Celtic tradition Daghda was honored as the father god. The Greek "father of the gods," Zeus, had a dual nature. As the father of many children, he could be protective and generous, sewing the fetus Dionysus into his own thigh and carrying him until he could be born. Yet his dark side was one of intimidation and harshness -- lashing out at his children whenever he was frustrated.
Several aspects of our society contribute to the continuation of this model: economic and emotional pressure, workaholism, and divorce. Yet, the good news is that many more men are taking up the challenge of conscious parenting.
Until recently, men's roles were clearly defined. In ancient rituals, boys were separated from the women and initiated into the way of men. Often they experienced great hardship and pain as they were thrown into the wild to learn survival skills. When they returned, they were considered "men."
Today, men are redefining the masculine role and many have taken on the role of nurturer and teacher while experimenting with a new kind of parenting. These extraordinary men have brought a new meaning to "father." As the male spirit opens up to the feminine energy in the world, it makes all of us more complete human beings and not so isolated within our roles. To think of yourself as a human being first in all relationships changes how one approaches life.
There are fewer "have tos" and more "want tos." As people, as parents, we simply do what needs to be done without worrying about if it is proper for a male or a female. There is more joy in the world when we do this.
According to Jeremy Adam Smith, author of The Daddy Shift, in a CNN article:
"There are a lot of guys out there that had remote relationships with their own fathers and they don't want that with their kids."
It's not just stay-at-home dads -- fathers in general are participating more in their children's lives."
In 1916, Sonora Smart Dodd, of Washington, raised by a single father, tried to create a holiday similar to Mother's Day. White roses were used to remember fathers who died, while red roses were given to living fathers. Most men thought this idea was too sentimental and/or commercial, since they felt they would be paying for the presents themselves (remember, men were the breadwinners in those days). During the Depression struggling retailers fought to make it a second Christmas and finally in 1972 President Nixon declared it a national holiday.
No matter what the origin, Father's Day is a time to honor all the men who have given of themselves to raise healthy, conscious children. They may be biological fathers or not, men who have taken upon themselves to mentor and be role models.
Plan a day to make the men in your life special, creating a day of adventure, a meal of his favorite food, a playlist of his favorite songs or movies that show the best of the male spirit. Meg Cox, in The Book of New Family Traditions, suggests that kids make Dad a special T-shirt where they paint their hand or footprints and write "I want to walk in Dad's footsteps" or "I am in good hands with Dad." My friend Heidi Banks says, "the greatest gift you can give in honoring dad is not a tie, but honoring your ties... to him."
I will personally be lighting a candle for my father in remembrance and getting his favorite food, halavah, to place on my altar. I like to spend the day focused on what I learned from him and opening to the good things he added to my life. Whatever you decide to do for this holiday, enjoy the celebration and the men you cherish. As my brother Mark, a father of three, so wisely said to me, "The best present for me is always feeling loved and included and appreciated. Gifts are quite secondary."
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