From the Collections

Fathers Around the World

This Sunday June 17 we once again celebrate Father’s Day – a time to pause, remember and pay respect to the men who have played the father role in our lives.

Below please enjoy an article featured in the June 1964 issue of Maryknoll that highlights that special person who for some is known as Dad…

A father and son in Egypt

“Called padre in Spanish, pére in French, otets in Russian and oto san in Japanese, Dad in different parts of the world has roles that vary even more than his many names.

‘Chasten thy son while there is hope,’ advises the Bible, ‘and let not thy soul spare for his crying.’ But in the Arapesh tribe of New Guinea, one of the father’s biggest jobs is to see that his offspring never cry.

Among these gentile folk, children are given almost anything they ask for, coddled and cuddled well past babyhood.  Fathers as well as mothers delight in feeding the youngsters by hand, slipping them the choicest morsels of food…

The degree of respect inspired by Dad has differed considerably in various times and places. In some of the sterner Puritan households, he was addressed by his offspring as ‘Honored Sir.’ Among the Trobriand Islanders of the South Pacific, who believe that spirits are the true fathers of mankind, children call their sires by a term that means ‘my mother’s husband.’

Everywhere, fathers receive gifts of one kind or another – but the type of gift and occasion for it reflect cultural differences…In pre-war China, where great age implied great prestige, a son often showed his respect for an elderly parent by making him a birthday present of a longevity robe. The gown, made of costly silk embroidered with the Chinese characters for ‘long life,’ was considered most effective if it was sewn by a young person likely to live a long time!

An interesting type of a Father’s Day feast comes down to us from ancient Greece. In Homer’s time, the patriarch was given the best food and drink at the feast table, and a pre-dinner libation was poured to the fathers of the tribe, living and dead.

But if you have trouble deciding on a Father’s Day gift, be glad at least you don’t have the problem confronting a Dinka son in Africa. The young men of this tribe waste no time wondering whether Dad would prefer a bottled cocktail for his parties, or a new tie to help him cut a more dashing figure in the office. There is only one acceptable gift from a son: the skin of the first lion that the young man hunts and kills!”

Father and son in Korea, 2003


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