Celebrating Father’s Day: 11 Unique Traditions from Around the World

A host father and sister enjoy some noodles with their exchange student.

Father’s Day is celebrated all over the globe. While a BBQ in late June is a popular way to honor fathers in the United States, customs and timings vary from country to country.

In honor of the upcoming U.S. holiday, here’s a list of 11 countries that commemorate their fathers in different ways.

Will you be inspired to spice up this year’s celebration with some new twists? Read the examples below from countries as diverse as Latvia, Thailand and Uruguay.


1. Russia

A Russian palace with grand, traditional architecture.A Russian palace with grand, traditional architecture.

On February 23, “Defender of the Fatherland Day” (or, often called “Men’s Day”) is a celebration of fathers and military veterans, and can feature parades and processions. Women give small gifts to men, in both family and professional environments.


2. Costa Rica

An impromtu parade in San Jose, Costa Rica.An impromtu parade in San Jose, Costa Rica.

In connection with Saint Joseph’s Day, Costa Ricans observe Father’s Day on March 19. Some other countries with significant Catholic populations also do so, like Spain, Croatia, and Italy.


3. Germany

A host father spends time with his German and Indian host sons. Both sons are wearing German soccer jerseys.A host father spends time with his German and Indian host sons. Both sons are wearing German soccer jerseys.

In Germany, Vatertag is celebrated a little differently. Adult men organize small hiking tour groups, and bring along traditional food and drink in a wagon called a bollerwagon. It is observed on Ascension Day, which is the Thursday that falls 40 days after Easter.


4. Nepal

Close up of prayer flags in Kathmandu, Nepal © anyaberkut / Dollar Photo Club.Close up of prayer flags in Kathmandu, Nepal © anyaberkut / Dollar Photo Club.

Father’s Day (or Gokarne Aausi) is a time to pay respect to fathers in Nepal. It falls between late August and early September, depending on the year. Children recognize their fathers by preparing tasty feasts. Those who follow Hindu traditions, may choose to pay their respects to deceased fathers by going to a Shiva temple in Gokarna, a town in the Kathmandu District.


5. Latvia

A group of AFS participants in Latvia.A group of AFS participants in Latvia.

In 2008, Father’s Day became an official holiday in Latvia. On the second Sunday in September, families show gratitude to fathers. A relatively new holiday, Latvians draw upon the many worldwide traditions, as there is not one traditional way to commemorate fathers.


6. Thailand

A group from the AFS Community Service 2008-2009 Year Program enjoys Father's Day festivities.A group from the AFS Community Service 2008-2009 Year Program enjoys Father's Day festivities.

Held on December 5 (which is the birthday of the King Bhumibol Adulyade), fathers in Thailand receive yellow Canna flowers from their children. The flower is considered to be a symbol of masculinity. Many also choose to wear yellow clothing.


7. South Africa

A host family and their host daughter take a moment to pose.A host family and their host daughter take a moment to pose.

Father’s Day picnics are common in South Africa, as are afternoon fishing trips. The day’s activities are followed by a big family dinner.


8. Netherlands

A goregous photo taken from a canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands.A goregous photo taken from a canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Fathers typically begin the day with breakfast in bed provided by his children and spouse, and the day ends with dinner. During the week, children often have time during school to make creative gifts.


9. Japan

A host family and their exchange student from the AFS Japan 2008 Year Program.A host family and their exchange student from the AFS Japan 2008 Year Program.

Seafood is traditionally served on the third Sunday in June. Children present their fathers with small gifts, like origami and edible treats.


10. Uruguay

Punta del Diablo © Kseniya Ragozina / Dollar Photo Club.Punta del Diablo © Kseniya Ragozina / Dollar Photo Club.

Some families honor dads by hanging a small replica skeleton outside their homes. The skeleton represents Father Skeleton (or Padre Esqueleto), a folkloric figure.


11. Mexico

Izamal, Mexico © latwicka / Dollar Photo ClubIzamal, Mexico © latwicka / Dollar Photo Club.

To appreciate their fathers, Mexican families get together and prepare festive meals. There is also a 21-km race held in Mexico City each year!


Celebrating AFS Fathers

Next weekend, American families will celebrate Father’s Day in a variety of ways. Many of this year’s AFS host families across the country will share this special occasion with a host son or daughter from another country. Use the hashtag #afsDadBrag to share a photo of a father who deserves some special recognition. As we get closer to Father’s Day, we will re-post some of our favorite photos!

Want to Host an Exchange Student?

Becoming a host parent is an experience that you'll carry with you for life. Find out why it’s one of the best decisions your family can make. Learn more about hosting with AFS and meet the students coming to your area this fall!