“Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers, and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole world.” — Kate Douglas Wiggin
Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world and to children, whether young or old, the day is a time to honor their mothers. It is celebrated in different ways and on different days but it is a time to say thank you to your mother for all the love she gave and for being a constant guiding force in life.
The earliest history of Mother’s Day is thought to be from a celebration of mother goddesses in Egypt as well as in ancient Greece and Rome.
Ancient Egypt held an annual festival that is one of the earliest know celebrations of a Mother goddess to honor Isis, thought to be the mother of the pharaohs.
The Greeks held an annual spring festival honoring maternal goddesses, especially Rhea who was the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.
Ancient Romans had a spring festival called Hilaria in celebration of Cybele, another mother goddess. The Romans also had another holiday, Matronalia, which was dedicated to Juno, though mothers were usually given gifts on this day.
A later version of Mother’s Day is that of Britain’s Mothering Sunday, believed to have originated in the 16th Century. In the Christian churches of that time there was a practice of visiting one’s mother church, the place where you were baptized, annually and on this day mothers would be reunited with their children. Later, Mothering Sunday was expanded to celebrate not only the mother church but also real mothers.
In America, Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870 called on mothers to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of Sons killing the Sons of other mothers in war.
The final statement of the proclamation was:
“In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”
In 1873 women’s groups all over North America celebrated Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day on June 2nd. The day was commemorated for several years after, and in Boston it continued as a holiday for 10 years, however it failed to get formal recognition so the holiday faded into the mists of time.
A West Virginia women’s group led by Anna Reeves Jarvis was later inspired 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 US Civil War, the group held a Mother’s Friendship Day.
After Mrs. Jarvis death, 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. On May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia where Mrs. Jarvis had taught Sunday school for 20 years. After endless petitions to organizations, churches, women’s groups and state governments for sponsorship, her dream of an official holiday came true. In 1912 West Virginia officially recognized Mother’s Day, and by 1914 Woodrow Wilson, declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day and signed it into national observance.
This tradition of celebrating Mothers Day has spread all over the world and it is celebrated at different times in many countries (see Table below). In some countries the customs and traditions of how Mother’s Day is celebrated are very different and marvelous and here are few of the best examples.
Date – Country
Feb 10th – Norway
March 3 – Georgia
Mar 8th – Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Vietnam.
(This is also International Women’s Day)
Mar 18 – United Kingdom, Ireland
(The 4th Sunday of Lent)
March 21 (first day of spring) – Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
April 7 – Armenia
May 6 – Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Taiwan
May 8 – South Korea
May 10 – El Salvador, Guatemala, , Mexico, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Singapore
May 13 (second Sunday of May) – USA, Anguilla, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Croatia, Curacao, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Honduras, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Malta, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Suriname, Switzerland, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe
May 26 – Dominican Republic, France (France is the last Sunday in May except if it coincides with Pentecost day [50th day after lent], in which case it is shifted to the first Sunday in June), Haiti, Poland, Sweden
May 27 – Bolivia
May 30 – Nicaragua
August 12 – Thailand (Queen Sirikit Kitiyakara’s birthday)
August 15 – Costa Rica
Mid-Fall – Ethiopia
October 14 – Argentina
Nov 24th – Russia, Panama
December 9th – Yugoslavia, Serbia ~ 2nd Sunday before Christmas
December 22 – Indonesia
In Argentina, one of the customs is a Mother’s Day surprise party. The young children encircle the mothers and read poems they have written in their honor. After this, the surprise comes when a door is opened and all the children’s grandmothers who have been in hiding come in and a great party ensues.
The Japanese call Mother’s Day Haha no Hi. In 1949 as part of the national celebration there was an art contest for children, who entered pictures they drew of their mothers. The winning drawings were shown in an art exhibit celebrating Mothers and peace. This exhibit toured Japan and many other countries.
Mother’s Day morning in Mexico begins with the mother being treated to a song sung by her family, or a serenade by band.
Flowers—especially violets—are given to Mum on Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom. Cakes are also made especially a glazed fruitcake called a Simnel Cake. There is a folk tale about a married couple, Simon and Nell who could not decide bake or broil a cake. So in the end they did both and the first Simnel cake was made.
The Swedish Red Cross sells small plastic flowers and the proceeds raised are given to poor mothers and their children.
In Finland Mother’s Day is called aidipayiva. In the morning the family takes a walk, picking flowers and making a bouquet for the mother. A particular small, white flower called the valkovuokko is the one they hope they can find to make the bouquet. Mom is then presented with the decorated bouquet, while being served breakfast in bed.
In Ethiopia Mother’s Day, or Antrosht, occurs in mid-fall when the rainy season ends. Ethiopians celebrate by making their way home for a feast. The children bring ingredients for a traditional hash recipe. The girls bring butter, cheese, vegetables and spices while the boys bring a bull or lamb. The mother prepares the hash and after the meal a celebration takes place. The mothers and daughters dance while the men sing songs in honor of family. This celebration can go on for 2-3 days.
Tied to a three-day series of holidays, Mother’s Day or Materitse is celebrated in Yugoslavia on the 2nd Sunday before Christmas. The children creep in and tie the mother’s feet to a chair and shout, “Mother’s Day, Mother’s Day, what will you pay to get away?” To earn her freedom she must give the family treats and candy.
All over the world people love to celebrate Mother’s Day with their mothers and shower love on them. And though each country may celebrate at a different time or in a unique way, what is remarkable is that at heart the feelings with which Mother’s Day is celebrated are all the same.
We hope that this year your Mother’s Day is one that is special for you and for your family.
Who have come into our lives
Whose kindness, care and loving
Remain with us to guide.
Your inspiration in us
Made us strive in every way
Especially to remember
Helping others makes our day.
Mothers, this little tribute
Flows directly from my heart
You are so loved and cherished
Invaluable, one and all, you are.
~ Susan Kramer