Many people are searching this week for the perfect gift for Father’s Day. It seems strange then to learn that the very idea of a gift for Dad is what prevented Father’s Day from being recognized as a national holiday for decades.
The very first event exclusively celebrating fathers was sponsored by a church in a West Virginia in 1908, in memory of 362 men who tragically perished in a coal mine the year prior. In 1910, Washington became the first state to establish Father’s Day after a hard-fought campaign by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was one of six children raised by a widower.
Father’s Day spread slowly. Despite the desire of many to establish a national holiday to honor fathers, fathers themselves (coincidentally those in power) preferred the attention and gifts be reserved for Mother’s Day. It wasn’t until 1972 that Richard Nixon made Father’s Day a national holiday.
What do the tobacconists at Georgetown Tobacco & Pipe think about when this holiday approaches every year? It isn’t really about sales— it’s a unique opportunity for us to be a part of a special memory. From my vantage point after 24 years at the flagship store, there is a lot to tell after having observed so much the last two-plus decades.
First, whether or not its Father’s Day, the reaction many people have upon entering 3144 M Street NW, is often one of awe and appreciation, especially if it’s their first time in the store. I’ve noted the excitement in the eyes of daughters and sons as they come into our shop, as they slow down upon entering, perusing some items seldom seen. They often immediately comment on how something would be “perfect for dad.” Some begin snapping photos, while some slow down and take in the atmosphere step-by-step. Many sense they’re strolling into the past and that dad, or grand-dad would appreciate the throwback to decades past. From the walking sticks, to the cufflinks, the flasks, hats and yes, the cigars and pipes, people immediately realize how much the “dad” in their lives would enjoy the experience that is Georgetown Tobacco. In that very moment, the experience itself is all about the aroma, historic décor, and our selection, but it is also the aura of this special place.
If “dad” happens to be present, family members always look to his reaction and usually encourage him to partake. As often as we hear “have you got any Cubans?” we also hear “I’d like to buy a cigar for my dad, but don’t know where to begin.” Being asked to help with a dad’s gift is something special. After all, as Zino Davidoff, once said: “A cigar ought always to be an event.… A cigar is a companion.” The cigar as gift is often a gift remembered, and certainly valued. Valued why? Because it is about companionship and creating a special moment, or an event, as Davidoff himself said.
Father’s Day and the special relationship with the cigar (or, pipe) and dad is something we behold almost daily:
- It’s the time-honored tradition of father and son (or, daughter, in many cases) planning to purchase a cigar together all for the purpose of sharing a moment and creating a special memory
- It’s dad teaching his younger son how to cut, light, and enjoy the moment with a fine cigar
- It’s the son, realizing what special moments of companionship mean and finding a new way to bond with his father
- It’s the older son, purchasing a cigar for dad, who now happens to be a grandfather
- It’s the younger dad “on duty” with his young children in tow, who quickly makes his entrance while mom is shopping in Georgetown
- It’s the mom coming in with her children, to help them pick the perfect cigar cutter or lighter they can present to Dad on his special day
- It’s the son or daughter looking for that perfect way to say thank you to their father for all he has done for them
- It’s the oft-repeated refrain when customers recall their childhood and the scent wafting from their grandfather’s pipe back in the day
- It’s the young child who stands in awe watching dad light his cigar, as the blue smoke wafts upwards into our hanging tobacco leaves
- It’s David Berkebile, owner of our store, working alongside his daughter Renee as they help customers. Like a father to so many over the decades, hearing David talking with customers is always an opportunity for us to learn.
- It’s my own experience of having brought my own son to work with me, from a very young age, to now seeing him as a young adult “get” why this business and this place is so special
- Father’s Day is the good conversation had while sharing a cigar on this special day; it’s the spiritual nature of what the cigar stands for and the fact that smoking a hand-rolled work of art is, “an event” to be valued.
- Smoking a cigar on Father’s Day is one of a select few times when it very much seems like a special rite of passage.
So unlike Christmas or the Super Bowl, unlike a birthday or an anniversary, Father’s Day conjures images and experiences that are much more aligned with the nostalgia, longing, and sentimentality associated with a good cigar. Father’s Day is a special day, and no other day comes close to what it represents, because it epitomizes that moment, that companionship so important in life.
Mother’s Day, in this very moment, has nothing on Father’s Day (no offense, mom!). Presenting a cigar to dad or grand-dad is much more than a gift. It’s the means towards that special bond, with the conversation and the experience of a shared moment frozen in time. It truly is a priceless – and, timeless — act.
So, as Father’s Day approaches this coming Sunday, remember and honor those in your life who happen to be dad, or grand-dad. And while you’re at it, hand him a cigar and thank him for the role he has played in your life. In these circles, a good cigar is forever a sign of respect, gratitude and admiration.
Happy Father’s Day!