Mother’s Day is observed in almost 140 countries, on different days throughout the year, but in all cases, its purpose is to honor motherhood and mothers.
As far as the American incarnation goes, it was created in 1908, by Anna Jarvis, but didn’t become an official holiday until 1914. The celebrations and dates may vary, but Mother’s Day in the US tends to fall on May’s second Sunday and if typically celebrating by showering mother with love and presenting them with gifts, such as flowers, chocolates, and cards.
The Historical Forerunners of Mother’s Day
We can trace the celebration of motherhood back to the ancient Romans and Greeks. They held festivals to honor Rhea and Cybele, the mother goddesses. However, the clearest modern comparison of Mother’s Day is the Christian festival Mothering Sunday. This was a major celebration and tradition in the UK, and throughout certain areas of Europe. This fell on the 4th Sunday in Lent. It was viewed as the time the faithful returned to their mother church (the main church in their area) for a special service. This eventually shifted to become a secular holiday where children presented their mother with a gift. Its popularity waned before combining with the American Mother’s Day during the 30s and 40s.
Early Incarnations of Mother’s Day
The roots of the modern US Mother’s Day hark back to the 19th century. In the run-up to the Civil War Anna Reeves Jarvis started the Mother’s Day Work Club, which taught the women of West Virginia how to properly look after their children. Later the club became a unifying force in an area of the country that was divided by the war. It was in 1868 that Jarvis created Mother’s Friendship Day, where mothers gathered with soldiers (from both sides) to encourage reconciliation.
The Founding of Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day didn’t officially arise until 1908, and it was due to the efforts of Anna Reeves Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis. The elder Jarvis died in 1905 and her daughter looked at the day as a way to honor the sacrifices every mother makes for her children. She gained financial backing from John Wanamaker, a department store owner in Philadelphia, and organized the first celebration at a church in West Virginia. A sister event was held the same day in one of Wanamaker’s stores.
Jarvis herself never married, nor had any children, but she worked to have the holiday added to the calendar. While she achieved this, she then fought to reverse it. Her vision saw the holiday as a personal celebration between a family and the mother. The truth of the matter is that despite her protests at its commercialization, every mother deserves a day to recognize her commitment, sacrifices, and the work that she puts into her family every single day. This is evidenced by the fact that it is a holiday celebrated across the world. While Americans celebrate mothers in May (so does Spain), Thailand celebrates in August, while Britain celebrates in March. It really doesn’t matter where you are, mothers are respected and to celebrate them we present them with gifts, thanking them for their efforts.
Have you figured out how you'll celebrate Mother's Day? Stay tuned for more ideas in the coming weeks.
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