The institution of Children’s Day, second Sunday in June, is one that is basically observed by Protestant churches throughout the United States.
This year the celebration falls on June 14.
This special observance for children can be traced back to Old World May Day rites when youngsters carried flowers or tree branches to their churches. At that time boys and girls were confirmed in Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches and it was originally called Flower Day or Rose Day. It was marked around the first of May, but was later shifted to June when more flowers were available in northern lands.
Though churches had held children’s programs for many years, it is not known exactly who or which group came up with the idea of devoting a special Sunday service to the boys and girls. The earliest known special observance is thought to have taken place in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on the second Sunday of June in 1856. The Rev. Charles R. Leonard of the Universal Church of the Redeemer dedicated the event, which he called Rose Day, to baptizing the children. At its general convention in 1867 the Universalists made that day the official day for child baptisms.
The Methodist Church is given the credit for first formally recognizing the observance. Its adoption was recommended in 1865. When the church’s General Conference convened in 1868, a resolution was passed that the second Sunday in June would be celebrated as Children’s Day in all Methodist Churches across the country.
Long before its General Assembly declared that Children’s Day would be observed, Presbyterian churches had been devoting a special Sunday in June to train children in Christian living.
In some churches today it has become a time to honor high school and college graduates because it occurs around the time of baccalaureate services. Some denominations use the day to raise funds to assist students with their college expenses through scholarships and loans.
Overall, Children’s Day is mainly observed to recognize the accomplishments of young people and their importance as the future supporters of the church.
The author is a New Haven resident, freelance writer and frequent contributor to this publication.