The Origins of Mother’s Day
In the U.S., Mother’s Day, is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. According to an article about the origins of Mother’s Day in the U.S., Julia Ward Howe, an anti-war activist most well- known for writing the song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” first suggested a Mother’s Peace Day in 1872. However, it is Anna Jarvais who is credited for organizing the first Mother’s Day celebration in Grafton, West Virginia in 1908.
Largely due to her efforts, President Woodrow Wilson declared a national day of mother and child, or Mother’s Day, in 1914. In a book about her, Anna Jarvais is also credited for fighting to keep Mother’s Day from being either commercialized or politicized. That fight entailed using most of her own financial resources to file lawsuits against those she considered to be using the holiday for political purposes or economic gain, which ultimately resulted in her dying penniless.
Despite her best efforts to keep Mother’s Day, meant to be a sacred day of mother and child, from being commercialized, Americans spent an estimated collective $21 billion dollars to on Mother’s Day in 2015. Equally ironic, Anna Jarvais herself had no children of her own. The majority of those $21 billion dollars were spent on cards, flowers, and jewelry with which people expressed their appreciation for the many sacrifices their mothers have made on their behalf. Anna Jarvais’s own mother’s favorite flower, the white carnation, was originally the official flower of Mother’s Day. About the flower, Anna Jervais was quoted in a 1927 interview as saying
“The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying,”
Day of Mother and Child Celebrations Around the World
A special day of mother and child is celebrated in many countries. Australians celebrate Mother’s Day on the same day as the U.S. There is also the similarity of the symbolism of the carnation. As in the U.S., Australia utilizes the carnation as part of the observance of Mother’s Day. According to their tradition, carrying a colored carnation signifies that one’s mother is still living, while a white carnation honors a mother who is deceased.
Grandmothers and other women who provide nurturing for children are honored as well as mothers.
Another tradition is for children to serve their mothers breakfast in bed as a way of expressing gratitude for all their mothers do for them throughout the year. In France for example, the day of mother and child is celebrated on the last Sunday in May with a family dinner ending with a cake in the shape of a bouquet of flowers to honor the mother of the family. In India, the focus is on to take time to think about all the pains their mother took while they were sick, the hardships she went through in bringing them up and all the sacrifices she made so that they lead a better life.
Ireland has celebrated a day of mother and child, based partially in the Catholic religion, since medieval times. During a time in which poor children were often sent to work as domestic servants in the homes of the wealthy, children were given one day off a year to worship the Virgin Mary and visit their own mothers. On that day, the fourth Sunday of Lent, the children would often pick wildflowers on their way home which they gave to their mothers, which began the modern tradition of giving flowers for Mother’s Day.
In Mexico the day of mother and child has been celebrated on May 10th since 1922, the holiday being credited to journalist Rafael Alducín, who wrote an article advocating a national celebration of mothers.
In Spain, Mother’s Day is celebrated on December 8th, and honors the Virgin Mary in addition to earthly mothers.
In Russia, before 1998, the day of mother and child was always celebrated on March 8th, which is International Women’s Day, partly in remembrance of the goal of global gender equality. Since 1998, Mother’s Day has been celebrated with light blue forget-me-nots on the last Sunday of November.
In Japan, the day of mother and child, called haha-no-hi, began to be celebrated on March 6th, to coincide with the birthday of Empress Kojun. The holiday was established by the Imperial Women’s Union in 1931. The celebration includes giving flowers, primarily carnations, as well as gifts and serving a special meal.
Mothers, and all they do to ensure the safety and happiness of not just their own children, but ultimately, their communities and the wider world, are well worth celebrating.