This isn’t my first time celebrating Mother’s Day yet, I got the dates mixed up. I thought it was the first weekend of May and we went out for dinner to commemorate the day. It turned out to be the second weekend of May! Oh well. At least we celebrated it early and didn’t have to pay the hefty, unreasonably expensive prices that many restaurants and cafes would charge on the actual day itself!
Speaking of commercialisation on Mother’s Day, I did some research and this is what I came up on the celebration!
The Origins of Mother’s Day
The hard work of Julia Ward Howe and Anna Reeves Jarvis, the female pioneers of their times, gave this very special day a reason to exist. The celebration is widely celebrated today across the globe, albeit on different dates, and has since become a very popular affair! Millions of people worldwide take the opportunity on this day to honour their mothers, thanking them for their efforts in giving them life, raising them and being their constant pillar of strength and support.
The Earliest History of Mother’s Day
The earliest history dates back to the ancient annual spring festival celebrated by the Greeks and dedicated to the maternal goddesses. The occasion was used to honor Rhea, wife of Cronus and the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.
The Ancient Romans also celebrated their version of the day as a spring festival called Hilaria and dedicated it to Cybele, a mother goddess. The Ancient Romans made offerings in the temple of Cybele, the celebration lasted for 3 days and included parades, games and masquerades.
Early Christians had also celebrated a Mother’s Day of sorts during the festival on the 4th Sunday of Lent as an honour to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ. In England, the holiday was soon expanded to include ALL mothers. It was then that the day was known as Mothering Sunday.
Mothering Sunday in England
During the 1600s, Mothering Sunday was celebrated annually on the 4th Sunday of Lent to honour mothers. The celebration entailed a prayer service in church to honour Virgin Mary where children brought gifts and flowers to pay tribute to their own mothers.
It was on this occasion that servants, apprentices and other employees would stay away from their homes and were encouraged by their employers to visit their mothers. Traditionally, children would also bring gifts with them as well as a special fruitcake or fruit-filled pastry called a simnel.
The custom of celebrating Mothering Sunday, however, died out almost completely by the time the 19th century rolled along. The day was resurrected after World War II when American servicemen brought the custom with them and businesses took advantage of it for sales and profit.
Mother’s Day by Julia Ward Howe
The idea of celebrating Mother’s Day officially in the United States was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872. As an activist, writer and poet, Julia shot to fame with her famous Civil War song, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. It was her suggestion that June 2 be allotted as the annual Mother’s Day celebration and dedicated to peace.
She tirelessly championed the cause of the official celebration as well as a declaration of an official holiday on that very day. Her idea spread but was later replaced by the Mother’s Day holiday that we are familiar with today and that we now celebrate in May.
Mother’s Day by Anna Reeves Jarvis
The founder of Mother’s Day is Anna Jarvis despite having never married and never had children of her own. Yet she was known as the Mother of Mother’s Day, a rather suitable title for a lady who worked hard to bestow honour on all mothers.
She got the inspiration of celebrating Mother’s Day from her own mother during her childhood days. An activist and social worker herself, Anna’ mother used to express her desire that someday, someone should honour all mothers, living or dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them.
Anna never forgot her mother’s word and when her mother passed away, she resolved to fulfill her mother’s desire of having a day dedicated to mothers. She sent carnations in a church service to honour her mother as carnations were her mother’s favourite and she felt that they symbolised a mother’s pure love.
She also wrote letters to people in positions of power to lobby for the official declaration of Mother’s Day holiday. By 1911, her hard work paid off as Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union and on 8 May 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution to designate the second Sunday in May as the official Mother’s Day.
I hope today’s brief lesson on the origins of Mother’s Day doesn’t make you want to spend your entire life’s savings on your mother. No amount of expensive perfumes, chocolates and holidays can replace the unconditional TLC that your mother showered on you. It’s the thought that counts. Honour your mother from the bottom of your heart today. Sorry Britney, we can’t have any broken hearts today.
My mum, however, decided to go away on a short trip to Genting Highlands with her sister on Mother’s Day. Why, mum, why today?!