The History of Mothers Day
In Canada, Mother’s Day is always celebrated on the second Sunday in May. The holiday is a time to acknowledge and honor anyone who is a mother. People show their gratitude in numerous ways including giving cards and flowers, cooking special meals or by taking moms out to dinner. Many Canadian Mother’s Day traditions originated in the United States. Mother’s Day was made an official holiday in America in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson.
The earliest Mother’s Day celebrations are attributed to the Ancient Greeks. They occurred in the spring and honored Rhea who was the Mother of the Gods. One of Saturn’s moons is also named for her.
In 17th century England, there was a day reserved to honor the mother of Jesus Christ, Mary. It later evolved to include all mothers and became known as Mothering Sunday to Christians. Mothering Sunday was celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which is the 40 day period prior to Easter. English servants were often given the day off and so they could return home to visit their mothers. It was customary to bring a gift. Over time, as Christianity became more prevalent throughout Europe, the day also became a time to worship Mother Church. Christians of this era believed the Church gave them life and shielded them from harm. These more religious-centric celebrations faded over the years.
Anne Marie Reeves Jarvis is credited with being one of the American inspirations for Mother’s Day as it is known today. She worked to improve sanitation for both the North and South during the Civil War and also promoted “Mothers Friendship Day” in an effort to help reconcile both sides after the Union army was victorious in 1865.
Julie Ward Howe was influenced by the work of Jarvis. Howe is probably best known for writing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” also called “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory.” Deeply impacted by the death and suffering caused by the Civil War and Franco Prussian War, Howe began a crusade for peace. She advocated for the concept of a “Mother’s Day of Peace,” which would be celebrated in early June. It was largely intended as way to get women united against war. Howe was never able to get Mother’s Day for Peace made into a formal holiday. However, in 1987, a stamp was issued in acknowledgement of her efforts.
Anna Jarvis, daughter of Anne Marie Reeves Jarvis, was instrumental in getting Mother’s Day recognized as an official holiday in the early 20th century. She cared for her sick mother before she died and came to the conclusion people did not appreciate their mothers enough when they were alive. What began as a letter writing campaign to congressmen, ministers and businessmen resulted in the founding of the Mother’s Day International Association in 1912. Two years later, Woodrow Wilson signed a Presidential proclamation making the second Sunday in May Mother’s Day. It became customary to give mothers white carnations at churches on the holiday because they were a favorite flower of the elder Jarvis.
Mother’s Day Around the World
Mother’s Day is celebrated a wide variety of ways around the world.
Flowers are a favorite Mother’s Day gift in Australia with carnations at the top of the list. Chrysanthemums have become popular as well, and Australian mothers are called mums.
Mother’s Day is a big holiday in Brazil; only Christmas is more commercialized. The day is often commemorated with children’s performances and large family gatherings.
Napoleon originally declared Mother’s Day (Fete des Meres) a holiday in France, but it wasn’t officially recognized until 1950. Mothers frequently receive gifts and enjoy a celebratory meal.
Mothers do countless things for their children, many of which are not truly appreciated until much later in life. Mother’s Day is a great time to say thank you.