I had never heard of Children’s Day when growing up. However, as a child it seemed unfair to me that a Sunday was set aside each year to honor mothers and another to honor fathers but none to honor children. I did not learn until after Susan and I had invented our own version of Children’s Day that a holiday called Children’s Day existed, at least in name, on the calendar of countries around the world.
Children’s Day does not enjoy the same prominence as either Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. There is no agreement as to the date or even the meaning of Children’s Day. Worldwide, it is celebrated every month of the year in one country or another. And increasingly the holiday has been coopted by those with causes to promote—like protecting children from abuse or exploitation. However noble these causes are, they freight the holiday with heavy, serious agendas, which do nothing to make it fun for children themselves.
Susan and I were innocent of any of this when, as young parents, we instituted our own family tradition of Children’s Day. For us it was a day to celebrate, honor, and bless our children. We chose the Sunday before school started as Children’s Day. And we developed our own Children’s Day traditions.
These began with a delicious formal dinner. We did not ask our children to help prepare the dinner or set the table. We wanted to do everything for them. On this day, we were their cooks and waiters. The dinner was served in the dining room rather than on the kitchen table, with cloth napkins and on Susan’s best china rather than on mismatched plastic plates and cups. We wanted our children to feel as if they were guests at a fancy restaurant or our adult friends at a formal dinner party. The meal was meant to make them feel honored and special.
After the dinner, we gave the children a few small presents, mostly related to school—like school supplies and new school clothes.
Then came the highlight of day: a father’s blessing. Each child was given a father’s blessing as they began a new school year. They looked forward to this every year. It was sort of like getting an annual patriarchal blessing. These father’s blessings made Children’s Day a very tender, spiritual holiday in our home.
Our children have continued this tradition in their own homes. We were pleased to hear from our grandchildren and their parents about Children’s Day this year, especially about the blessings our grandchildren received from their fathers. Some even shared notes their mother took about the blessings.
Their father’s blessings were sensitive, inspired, often poignant, and always personalized to each child. Our grandchildren came away from the experience armed with priesthood power and strengthened by the bonds of love that are forged as parents and siblings rejoice in each child’s gifts and rally around each other as they face a new school year with a normal mix of excitement and apprehension.
I recommend these Children’s Day traditions to any family. Children’s Day has become one of my favorite holidays. It provides a natural, regular time for us as fathers to live up to our privileges. A time for parents and siblings to bond together in love. A happy time that lives long in the memory. A golden moment when, as Longfellow says in a tender poem entitled “The Children’s Hour,” we hold our family fast in the fortress of our hearts:
I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
(From The Children’s Hour by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)