With all the excitement about the pending Eid al-Adha holidays, we started thinking about other holidays celebrated in the Arab world. For example, along with the two Islamic holidays, we know that some countries also celebrate Western holidays as well. These may include major holidays like Labor Day or their version of Independence Day. However, did you know that some countries also celebrate minor holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and even Father’s Day?

Yep, you read that right. Just like the West, many Arabic speaking countries wish their fathers a “Happy Father’s Day” every year on June 21. So, join us as we take a look at the history of Father’s Day and how Arab’s celebrate “Eid al-Ab”.  (Yes, we know that Father’s Day was last month. However, we like to follow wise words that a student once told his teacher when asked “When is Father’s Day?” He answered, “Teacher, isn’t every day Father’s Day?”)

When Father’s Day Began

As you probably already know, Father’s Day was originally a Western celebration. However, what you might not know is that the holiday dates all the way back to 1508. That’s when Catholics in southern Europe started the tradition. In fact, it was the Catholics who brought the holiday to  U.S. and seemed to be a holiday that only they celebrated. However, that changed in the early 20th century when, thanks to  a loving daughter, the whole country adopted the celebration.

A Daughter’s Love

In 1909, 16-year-old Sonora Smart Dodd was sitting in church listening to a sermon on Mother’s Day. It was then she wondered to herself why there was no day set aside to also honor fathers. After all, her own father was a Civil War veteran who was soon widowed and raised his children alone. As a result, Sonora started a petition for the first Father’s Day and got the neighboring church communities to agree.

Sonora originally proposed that the holiday be celebrated in early June on her father’s birthday.  However,  church members needed more time to prepare so pushed the date back to the third Sunday in June. Over the next few years, the idea spread around the country and in 1970, the U.S. Congress made Father’s Day an official holiday.  Ever since, Americans have celebrated Father’s Day every year on the third Sunday in June.

In the beginning the celebration was simple enough with kids giving Dad Father’s day gifts like ties, after-shave lotion, or even (gasp) a carton of cigarettes. Nowadays, however, if you’re looking for Father’s Day gift ideas, gifts for dad include more high-end items like golf clubs and smartphones. Nothing but the best will do for dear old Dad these days.

How the Middle East Has a Happy Father’s Day      

Like other Western holidays, Arab countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, and the UAE adopted Father’s Day, too.  However, it’s typically not  a big to-do like Mother’s Day in these countries. Still, the story of how Father’s Day got its start in the Middle East is just as interesting as how it started in America.

Like Father’s Day in the U.S., the holiday got its start in the Arab World because of Mother’s Day. Back in 1956, a  journalist from Egypt Mustafa Amin proposed the idea of Mother’s Day. After Egypt officially adopted the holiday, other countries soon followed suit.  A little later on, the Egypt’s government wanted to call it Family Day. However, their attempt to change the name failed, and the people of Egypt continued to celebrate Mother’s Day.

One day however, some of Egypt’s citizens said, “Hey, we know that mothers play a big role in raising their children, but Dads do, too! Besides, children have the right to show their love to both parents, so how about we have a holiday to honor fathers, too!” The idea was accepted and Father’s Day was born in the Middle East.

As Arabs gladly show kindness, love, and respect to their parents, Father’s day has become a family event that honors the roles father play in the family. Like the West, they usually greet “baba” with عيد أبٍ سعيداً! / eid ab seydaan! (“Happy Father’s Day!) and present him with a small gift.

So, there you have it. Now you know how to say “Happy Father’s Day” in Arabic and you have a whole year to practice. So, next year, along with your own father, don’t forget to wish all the Arab fathers you know “eid ab seydaan!” as well.

Want to learn more about Arab culture and the Arabic language? Then download the “Father of All Arabic Language Learning Apps” – the Kaleela Arabic Leaning App!  Just like dear ol’ Dad, we’ll guide you through everything you need to know about Arabic and Arab culture.  Find out more by visiting us at kaleela.com today! (And don’t forget to visit your Dad, too!)

Kaleela – Learn Arabic the Right Way!