1 March 2019
History of Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day honours motherhood and is observed in different forms throughout the world. Celebrations of mothers can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honour of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. The clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as ‘Mothering Sunday.’
Once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, this celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent. It was originally seen as a time when the ‘faithful’ would return to the local church near their home for a special service.
Over time the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday and children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of love and appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908. Interestingly, Jarvis would later criticise the holiday’s commercialisation and spent the latter part of her life trying to remove it from the calendar.
The official Mother’s Day holiday began in the 1900s as a result of Jarvis’ efforts. Following her mother’s death in 1905, she conceived of Mother’s Day as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. She organised the first official celebration at a Methodist church in West Virginia.
Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis—who was unmarried and childless—wanted to see the holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward men and their achievements, she started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honouring motherhood.
By 1912 many US states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual event, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The date was later adopted by Australia and many other countries.
While versions of Mother’s Day are celebrated worldwide, traditions vary depending on the country. In Thailand, for example, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.
Another alternate observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather in Autumn to sing songs and to feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honouring motherhood.
Mother’s Day in Australia and New Zealand will be celebrated on Sunday May 12. A blessed and wonderful Mother’s Day to all our Majellan readers.