Home > Holiday > The History of Mother’s Day

The History of Mother’s Day

May 13, 2007

Historians believe that our modern day tradition of honoring our mothers dates back to the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome. Mother goddesses were worshipped in both of these cultures during the spring and in religious festivals. Rhea, powerful goddess and wife of Cronus, was also known as Mother of the Gods. There is evidence of a mid-March festival to honor the Roman goddess Magna Mater, or Great Mother which dates back to 250 BC. The celebration of the “Mother Church” replaced the pagan festivals during the spread of Christianity throughout Europe.

Since it was believed that the Mother Church was spiritual power that gave life and protected from harm it was customary for people to bring gifts to the church. In Europe during the middle Ages, the fourth Sunday in lent became known as mothering Sunday. Most poor folk were employed as servants of wealthy landowners, and therefore forced to live in the home of their employer. They were allowed to return home on the fourth Sunday in Lent, and often brought small gifts or a “mothering cake” also known as Simnel Cake. The cakes, prepared ahead used dried fruit, as these would keep and travel well during the journey home, which would have been made on foot, or if one was fortunate, by horse and cart.

“I think it must somewhere be written that the virtues of mothers shall be visited on their children, as well as the sins of their fathers.” Charles Dickens Modern tradition of Mother’s Day

Julia Ward Howe, author of the words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, was the first person to suggest that America adopt a day when all mothers should be honored. She saw Mother’s Day as a day dedicated to peace. The suggestion was not taken seriously however, although she held Mother’s Day meetings in Boston, Massachusetts every year.

The celebration of Mother’s Day as a holiday in the United States is attributed to Mrs. Anna Jarvis, who dedicated her life to promoting the holiday. She was inspired by her own mother’s devotion to the raising of a family of eleven children. On the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday in May, Anna Jarvis convinced her mother’s parish in West Virginia to hold a celebration of Mother’s Day. The church was decorated with her mother’s favorite flower, the white carnation, a symbol of sweetness, purity and endurance. Mother’s Day – the day of flowers The white carnation was originally worn to symbolize a mother who has passed away and a red carnation for one who is living. However, many other flowers are now accepted as being significant on Mother’s Day. In 1910, West Virginia officially recognized Mother’s Day, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it a national holiday.

Mother’s Day traditions around the world

In the United States, it is tradtional to bring flowers and take you mohter to lunch or brunch. As in other countries, if a family is not able to be with their mother on this special day, they will often send cards, flowers or gifts to mark the occasion. Others will simply give the gift of their time, spending time with their mother, having a special meal or taking Mother for an enjoyable outing.

“God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.” Jewish proverb

In Australia the white chrysanthemum has taken the place of the carnation, being the most prolific flower in season in May. All along our roadways you will see people with buckets containing bunches of colourful chrysanthemums, for sale on Mother’s Day. Many people stop on route to their visit their own mothers, and in remembrance of their care and love, purchase these colorful gifts. Church services make special mention of the devotion of mothers to the task of caring for and raising their children, reminding families to take special care of their mothers.

“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” — Tenneva Jordan

Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Japan, Australia and Belgium celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May, however some countries observe it on a different day. Sweden and France chose to celebrate this occasion on the last Sunday in May, and the French often treat this occasion similarly to a family birthday, when the family gathers together for a celebration meal culminating in the enjoyment of a special Mother’s Day cake. We see once again the connection between Mother’s Day and Spring festivals, as in Lebanon it is held on the first day of spring, South Africa holds its celebration on the first Sunday in May. Argentina and India observe Mother’s Day in October. The festival Durga Puja in honor of Durga, the Divine Mother and most important Hindu goddess in India is celebrated with a 10 day festival in early October. Spain and Portugal celebrate Mother’s Day on December 8th, when they not only honor mothers but attend religious services to honor the Virgin Mary.

“The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom.” Henry Ward Beecher

Anna Jarvis’ aim had been for this Day to increase respect for parents and strengthen family bonds. She believed that the gift of time and the giving of ourselves were the important aspects of setting aside a day. No matter from which country we originate, or what time of the year we celebrate, the central theme honoring one’s mother is uniform the world over.

“An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest.” –Spanish Proverb

Fookem and Bug wish every mother in the world a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’.

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Categories: Holiday
  1. May 13, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    This was nice to read. Thank you for sharing this lovely info. In my little world today (Mother’s Day), I helped my own mother tear out an old deck, pour sand, lay bricks and prepare her backyard for a new swimming pool that she won through a contest! My siblings and other relatives were all there with us and my 10 year old son kept us refreshed with cool water and neck rubs all day. We paused for 5 minutes of silence today at 1pm to “save the world” with other Standing Women.

    ~ LaRonda

  2. May 14, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Oh, you all are blessed!

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