Celebrating Father’s Day around the world

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During my time as an expat, I found experiencing different cultures to be one of the most exciting parts of living in another country. Witnessing the unique festivals and celebrations that take place around the world can, in particular, be hugely enriching.

Such events might include La Tomatina, fiestas of San Fermin and cheese rolling. It’s easy to forget though, that some of the celebrations we might take for granted in the UK where I live now, are also observed in other countries, but in very different ways. Celebrations such as Father’s Day, for example.

To illustrate, I wanted to share 10 of the most unique Father’s Day celebrations from around the world:

Finland: In Finland, Father’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of November, and is marked by children participating in their fathers’ favourite activities and offering home-made cards. It’s also customary to fly the national flag throughout the day.

France: La Fête des Pères is observed on the third Sunday of June, and was introduced in 1949 by – believe it or not – lighter manufacturer, Flaminaire, in the hope that the occasion would boost the company’s sales in France. The holiday was officially decreed in 1952, when a national Father’s Day committee was established to award prizes to the most deserving fathers. Today, lighters have typically replaced with drawings or small gifts as children look to honour their fathers.

Germany: Father’s day is always celebrated in Germany on Ascension Day, the first Thursday to fall 40 days after Easter, and is often known asHerrentag – or ‘Gentlemen’s Day’. Groups of men will often embark on a hike, pulling wagons filled with wine, beer and traditional food from their respective regions. It’s believed that this tradition dates back to the 18th century when men would assemble in the plaza of a local village where the mayor would award a prize – usually a large piece of ham – to the father who had the most children.

Italy: Father’s Day is celebrated in Italy on 19th March, St. Joseph’s Day. The festivities that take place on Festa di San Giuseppe include street parades, feasts and bonfires. In parts of the country, donkey races are sometimes held to symbolise Joseph leading Mary to Bethlehem.

Thailand: Father’s Day is marked in Thailand on the birthday of the king, currently falling on 5th December. People in Thailand would traditionally celebrate by gifting their father a canna flower, however, it’s more common today to light candles and wear yellow as a sign of respect for the late king Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Mexico: El Dia del Padre is celebrated in Mexico on the third Sunday of June. Children will commonly give handwritten letters to their fathers, or cook meals. Some might even walk or run the 21 kilometre race in Mexico City together, known as the “Carrera Día del Padre 21K Bosque de Tlalpan”, which is meant to encourage a bond between children and their fathers as they run side by side.

Russia: Falling on 23rd February, Father’s Day is actually known in Russia as ‘Defender of the Fatherland Day’, and has evolved from a military tribute to Russian soldiers to become a celebration of all father figures. The cities of Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Orenburg host festivals to mark the occasions, while St. Petersburg’s annual Daddy-Starts celebration includes sports tournaments and concerts.

South Africa: In South Africa, Father’s Day is celebrated with a feast of regional dishes, such as bobotie (a rich meat pie), biltong (salted, curated meat), and boerewors (grilled sausage). Families across the nation will come to together to participate in street performances, sports tournaments and concerts.

Japan: Father’s Day in Japan celebrates family and food. It’s customary that families host a big seafood banquet for all to enjoy, with the fathers at the centre of attention. At the end of the meal, fathers are then toasted with beer or champagne and presented with presents – often in the form of beer glasses to aid the toast itself.

Whether it be with a national flag, a prize ham, donning a yellow outfit or simply making breakfast in bed, here’s to a happy Father’s Day.

However – and indeed, wherever – you’re celebrating this year.

Tom Wilkinson, CEO, AXA – Global healthcare

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