Mother’s Day is one of the most popular gift-giving holidays of the year, running a close fourth to Easter, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. We can trace this holiday back to ancient times when the mother figure was greatly revered.
In ancient Greece, the festival of Cybele, the great mother of the Greek gods, was held around the Vernal Equinox which took place in the spring. This celebration was adopted by the Romans and celebrated between March 15th and March 18th. The Romans also celebrated Matronalia in honor of the goddess Juno which was also celebrated in the month of March. Roman mothers were given gifts on this day to show respect for them.
In Great Britain and Ireland, they celebrate Mothering Sunday. This day always falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent and began as a 16th century tradition that people went to visit their mother church annually, often reuniting mothers with their children for this one day. As society became more secular, the date was adopted as a time to celebrate and give thanks to mothers.
In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. The American holiday was loosely based on the British day and was introduced by Julia Ward Howe, a social activist and poet during the Civil War who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She introduced the holiday as a way to unite women against the war. While Howe was not very successful in this attempt, a young homemaker from Appalachia named Ann Jarvis attempted to improve sanitary conditions on both sides of the Civil War by adopting Mothers’ Work Day in 1858. After the war was over, she used the day to try to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors. As a remnant of this conciliation, in some parts of the United States it is customary to plant tomatoes on Mother’s Day.
Upon her death, her daughter Anna Jarvis founded a memorial day for women that began in Grafton, West Virginia on May 10, 1908. The custom soon spread to 45 states until 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day to remember the mothers whose sons had died in war.
Once the holiday was official, businesses began turning it into a commercial venture. Anna Jarvis herself became an opponent of what the holiday that she had begun had turned into but to no avail. Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year in the restaurant industry as most people take their mother out to dinner. Florists and gift basket companies also make a profit as people buy these items to give to their mothers.
Again, the holiday that we know as Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday in May in the United States. This date varies from country to country. In Norway, it is celebrated on the second Sunday in February, while in the former Soviet Union it falls on March 3rd. Great Britain still celebrates it on the fourth Sunday in Lent, while many Middle Eastern countries celebrate it on March 21st. Portugal and Spain celebrates Mother’s Day on the first Sunday in May, while Mexico celebrates the occasion on May 10th. No matter what part of the world that you are in, there is some form of Mother’s Day celebrated.
No matter how commercialized this holiday has become, for some women this day represents the one time during the year that their families actually appreciate them and may even say “thank you” for all that they do. We can hope to celebrate Mother’s Day for a long time to come.
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