Children's Day Celebrations in America
Come May every year and you celebrate Mother's Day with so much enthusiasm. The next month arrives and you get ready to pamper dad on Father's Day. But do you know that Children’s Day began to be observed in the United States even before Mother’s and Father’s Day?
The celebration of a special Children’s Day in America dates from the 1860s and earlier.
It was in the year 1856 when Rev. Charles H. Leonard, D.D., the then pastor of the First Universalist Church of Chelsea, Massachusetts, set apart a Sunday in honour of children and named it "Children's Day". He declared that this day was to be observed every year and on this occassion Christian children were to show their commitment to their religion by observing a prayer service and their parents and guardians were to promise that they would bring up their children as proper Christian parents should. The first Children's Day service was observed on the second Sunday in June 1856.
Eleven years later, in September 1867, delegates to the Universalist General Convention at Baltimore decided to set apart the second Sunday in June to be celebrated as Children's Day in the churches. A similar decision was taken at the Methodist Conference of 1868 by The Methodist Episcopal Church and also by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1883. In 1883, the National Council of Congregational Churches and nearly all the state bodies of that denomination in the United States passed resolutions recommending the observance of Children's Day in the second Sunday in June. About this time many other denominations adopted similar recommendations.
However, the tradition of Children's Day never really caught on and became so popular as the holidays devoted to mothers and fathers. Despite a federal proclamation and the efforts of many churches over the years, the dream of a national day of celebration to honor and support children remained only a dream.
But all that changed when in October 2000, President Bill Clinton proclaimed November 16th as Children's Day. He declared that it be held on this date henceforth.
But on June 3, 2001, US President George W. Bush proclaimed National Child's Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year henceforth, in early June.
He said: "Every child in every neighborhood has unique gifts to offer. We must nurture our children's dreams, help them develop their talents and abilities, and ensure their healthy development so that they may reach their full potential. Our success in this vital endeavor will affect the direction of their lives and the future strength and vitality of our Nation.
In recognition of the importance of our Nation's children, the Senate, by Senate Resolution 90 approved May 25, 2001, has designated June 3, 2001, as "National Child's Day" and has requested that the President issue a Proclamation calling for appropriate ceremonies and activities.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 3, 2001, as National Child's Day. I encourage all Americans to share in the mission of preparing our young people for life's challenges and opportunities. By reading to youngsters, listening to their cares and concerns, and providing them with safe and loving homes, we can make a positive and lasting contribution to their health, happiness, and well-being."
So in 2003, he proclaimed National Child's Day on June 1; in 2004, on June 6th; in 2005, on June 5th; in 2006, on June 4th; and in 2007, on June 3rd.
In 2007, Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed the second Sunday in June as Children's Day. The mayors of Aurora and Batavia, Illinois, also issued similar proclamations.
Presently, numerous churches, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Church of the Nazarene, observe Children's Day in the second Sunday in June. The occassion is observed today in many Protestant churches as well. The contemporary Children’s Day revives, celebrates, and commits to better the future of and support the children of United States and the world.