A Mother’s Day Tradition

Mother’s Day History

The majority of countries that celebrate Mother’s Day do so on the second Sunday of May. On this day, it is common for mothers to be lavished with presents and special attention from their families, friends, and loved ones. The origin of Mother’s Day dates back to the era of ancient Greece and Rome, but the roots of the Mother’s Day tradition can also be traced in Europe long before it became a tradition in the U.S.

Gatherings with Mom in 16th Century Europe

The more recent history of Mother’s Day dates back to the 1600’s in England where “Mothering Day” or “Mothering Sunday” was celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of Lent in an effort to honor all mothers. Mothering Day became an especially compassionate holiday toward the working classes of England. During this Lenten Sunday, servants and trade workers were allowed to travel back to their towns of origin to visit their families. Mothering Day also provided a one day reprieve from the fasting and penance of Lent so that families across England could enjoy a family feast—Mother was the guest of honor. Mothers were presented with cakes and flowers, as well as a visit from their beloved and distant children.

History of an American Celebration

Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe

The idea of an official celebration of Mother’s Day in the US was conceptualized by Julia Ward Howe in 1872. A writer, poet, and activist, Julia suggested that the annual Mother’s Day holiday be celebrated on June 2 and should be dedicated to peace. She penned a passionate appeal to women urging them to rise against war in her famous Mother’s Day Proclamation written two years earlier in 1870. Julia also wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic 12 years prior, where she become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on mothers to come together and protest. With the following, she called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood.

Planting the Seed

Howe had nevertheless planted the seed that would blossom into what we know as Mother’s Day that’s now celebrated on the second Sunday of May. A West Virginia women’s group, led by Anna Reeves Jarvis, began to celebrate an adaptation of Howe’s holiday. In order to re-unite families and neighbors that had been divided between the Union and Confederate sides of the Civil War, the group held a Mother’s Friendship Day.

The Mother of Mother’s Day

After Anna Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. Anna wanted to uphold her mother’s desire that someday someone must honor all mothers, living and dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them.

Anne M. Jarvis
Anna M. Jarvis "The Mother of Mother's Day"

As a loving daughter, Anna resolved to fulfill her mother’s desire of having an official Mother’s Day. To begin, she would send carnations to the church service in Grafton, West Virginia to honor her mother. Carnations were her mother’s favorite flower and Anna felt that they symbolized a mother’s pure love. Later, Anna, along with her supporters, wrote letters to people in positions of power lobbying for an official declaration of the Mother’s Day holiday.The hard work paid off. By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in the union, and on May 8, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Anna M. Jarvis is recognized as the Founder of Mother’s Day in the U.S. although she never married and never had children. An apt title for a woman who worked hard to bestow honor on all mothers, Anna became known as the mother of Mother’s Day.

Present Day Celebrations

Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated in several countries including U.S., UK, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. People take the day as an opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and thank them for all their love and support. The day has become hugely popular, and in several countries, phone lines witness maximum traffic. There is also a tradition of gifting flowers, cards, and other gifts to mothers on Mother’s Day. The festival has become commercialized to a great extent. Florists, card manufacturers, and gift sellers see huge business potential in the day and make good money through a rigorous advertising campaign.

Bouquet of Flowers for Mother's Day

Listed are some interesting facts on Mother’s Day in the United States.

  • The National Retail Foundation estimates that Mother’s Day is a 16.3 billion dollar industry
  • Florists see their highest sales during the month of May
  • Restaurants claim that Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year
  • Long distant calls also peak on this day
  • The US Postal Service experiences increased volume during the surrounding days
  • According to Hallmark (via About.com), 96% of American consumers take part in shopping on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a long standing tradition that will continue for many more years to come. Tell us what you did today to honor the special mothers in your life today.

Geauga News
Author: Geauga News