Wednesday Feature: Father’s Day and Sunday Dinner

This Sunday (upcoming) is Father’s Day. Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is a day singled-out on the calendar to celebrate the paternal role within the family – dad or father. By spending and activity however, the day receives less attention and recognition than Mother’s Day. As a dad, I can understand that and relate to it. In our house, now and as a kid, mom ruled and admittedly, her role and her presence were beyond significant for me and for my dad.

Father’s Day origins began in West Virginia in 1908 when a Sunday church service included a sermon to memorialize 352 men who died in a coal mine accident. The commemoration was one-time, not in a holiday format.

The next year, in the State of Washington, a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd tried to establish the father version of Mother’s Day. Dodd was one of six children raised by her father. She sought support from retailers, churches, associations, and various government officials for the “day” and in 1910, the State celebrated the first “official” holiday of Father’s Day on June 19.

Slowly the day’s celebration spread and by 1924, President Coolidge was urging all states to celebrate Father’s Day. In 1972, President Nixon made Father’s Day via a signed proclamation, a national holiday. The day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June.

For me, the celebration of Father’s Day is always about me cooking a favorite meal – typically on the grill or on my smoker. In many ways, every Sunday for me, is akin to Father’s Day as it was for my dad. Sunday dinner is a time-honored tradition in my family, still celebrated today, with the table always including family but often, including guests. Sunday dinner has enormous importance for us personally, philosophically, and theologically.

Growing up, Sunday dinner was a requirement for any in my immediate family to attend. Even after I left the house, if I was around for any reason, I was expected to attend Sunday dinner. You couldn’t miss as a kid without being in the “doghouse” and honestly, I never wanted to miss. At the table was always a grandparent, sometimes two, friends, guests, siblings, etc. Dad was the patriarch and sometimes the cook. You never ate until mom settled and you never let mom clean the table – she was mom, not the maid!

My wife and I are fans of the show Blue Bloods featuring Tom Selleck as the head of a family of law enforcement members. Every show includes a scene or two of “Sunday dinner” with the table full of family, including grandpa. At times, guests are present. Selleck sits at the head of the table and meals start with prayer/grace, recited by one of the family members (it is a rotational duty). There are rules to Sunday dinner, mostly around no fighting, everyone participates, no one eats until all food is passed, etc. For me, it is reminiscent of my youth. Our Sundays are a bit less formal but always, in the same tradition and with the same importance.

Growing up, my mother’s mother (my grandmother) was the matriarch of our family. She led formation for all of us and her background, a staunch Christian with roots in the EUB tradition/Methodist Episcopal Church. She required church on Sunday before a meal. She was basically a non-drinker and cussing brought immediate scorn from her. She saw the table, especially on Sunday, as the Lord’s table and the Lord’s supper. It was meant to be a meal of great significance in terms of family, friends, guests, and in turn, the fellowship all shared in the meal. Those days and the importance of Sunday supper (dinner) remain with me today. I still believe that if we all could take that Sunday time and gather for a meal and conversation and maybe a bit of prayer and thanksgiving, the world would be a better place. Happy Hump Day! Here’s a little fun read from a Church of the Brethren publication regarding Sunday supper. My grandmother would approve!


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