History of Mother’s Day
Whether its flowers, breakfast in bed, or a handwritten card, Americans typically resort to “leisurely” activities to honor mothers and mother figures on Mothers Day.
We’ve been celebrating since 1914 when Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as a national holiday. However, celebrating mothers dates back much further. The origins of Mother’s Day in the U.S began in the 19th century before the civil war. Women created clubs such as the “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to educate on proper child care and work on reconciliation between the divided nation. This club sprouted more such as “Mothers’ Friendship Day” and “Mother’s Peace Day.”
This Sunday, May 12, we’ll take the time to celebrate all that our mothers have done for us in the U.S. But what about the rest of the world? We gathered a list of some other traditions countries to take to honor their mothers.
In Britain, Mothering Sunday, or Mother's Day, is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, which fell on March 6 this year. According to Britannica, the custom began in the Middle Ages when people who had moved away returned to visit their home parishes and their mothers on that day. In particular, it was a day when children who left home to work as domestic servants were given a day off.
Bolivia (Mental Floss)
During the struggle for independence from Spain in the early 19th century, many of the country's fathers, sons, and husbands were injured and killed on the battlefields. As the history is told to Bolivian students, one group of women from Cochabamba refused to stand idly by; on May 27, they banded together to fight the Spanish Army on Coronilla Hill. Though hundreds died in battle, the legacy of their contributions lives on thanks to a national law passed in the 1920s making the day on which the “Heroinas of Coronilla” took to the streets national Mother’s Day.
Ethiopia (Global Citizen)
Mother's Day in Ethiopia is celebrated with a three-day festival called Antrosht, which takes place at the end of Fall. Not only is it a celebration to honor mothers, but also a time to celebrate the end of the rainy season. It is a time for singing and dancing and an amazing three-day feast where a traditional hash meal is prepared, with all members of the family bringing the various ingredients.
France (Global Citizen)
Mother’s Day in France is called Fete des Meres. It takes place in late May or early June, depending on when Pentecost takes place. Fete des Meres became an official celebration in 1950, although Napoleon was the first to declare it a holiday. Much like other countries of the world, the French celebrate their mothers with a relaxing day of food and gifts and spending time with family.
Muttertag takes place on the second Sunday in May (unless it falls on Pentecost, in which case it occurs on the first Sunday of the month). In Germany, the giving of Mother's Day cards is extremely popular. During WWII, Mother's Day traditions took on political significance as the day to acknowledge women for producing children for the Vaterland, or Fatherland. Medals were awarded in gold, silver or bronze, based upon how many children were in the household. After the war, it assumed a softer feel, with the giving of gifts, cards and flowers, as well as festive meals earmarking the day.
Each October, Hindus honor Durga, the goddess of mothers, during the 10-day festival known as Durga Puja. The celebration is thought to date back to the sixteenth century and is considered both a religious ceremony and a time for family reunions. One story tells of Durga returning to her parents’ home to show off her own children. Families spend weeks preparing food, gathering gifts, and decorating their homes for the festival.
Indonesia (Mental Floss)
Made official in 1953 by its president, Indonesia's Mother’s Day falls on the anniversary of the First Indonesian Women’s Congress (1928). The first convening of women in a governmental body is still considered pivotal in launching organized women’s movements throughout Indonesia. The holiday was created to celebrate the contributions of women to Indonesian society.
Following World War II, a version of Mother’s Day grew popular as a way of comforting mothers who had lost sons to the war. You’ll see carnations presented around this March holiday, as they symbolize the sweetness and endurance of motherhood in Japanese culture. Originally, children gave a red carnation to a living mother and displayed a white one if their mother had died. Now, white has become the traditional color.
Mexico takes very Mother’s Day very seriously. In fact, Manuel Gutierrez, president of the national association of restaurateurs, told the WashingtonPost in 2012 that May 10—whatever the day of the week—is the busiest day of the year for Mexican restaurants. Flowers are a must, but the day is also filled with music, food, celebrations, and often a morning serenade of the song “Las Mananitas” from mariachi singers:“Awaken, my dear, awaken/ and see that the day has dawned/ now the little birds are singing/ and the moon has set.”
Mother's Day is celebrated the second Sunday of May with gifts, chocolates and joyous family meals. In Peru, children often give their moms handmade items, which are reciprocated with gifts from them, in turn.
Peru's indigenous Andean population, however, also celebrates the gifts of Mother Earth, or Pachamama, in early August, says Hopgood. Pachamama is an ancient mythological goddess beloved by many indigenous Andean populations. Mythology cites Pachamama as the cause of earthquakes and bringer of fertility. Her special worship day is called Martes de Challa.
In the former Soviet Union, mothers were celebrated on International Women’s Day on March 8, a celebratory date that has since become an internationally-observed day to honor women and reflect on the goal for gender equality. In 1998, post-Soviet Russia introduced Mother’s Day on the last Sunday in November, but most of the gift giving still happens in March.
Another country which needs three days to fully acknowledge their mothers and the spirit of family is Serbia, where Mother's Day takes place in December and is part of a series of holidays including Children's Day and Father's Day. All three holidays take place on consecutive Sundays and require lots of rope!
On Children's Day, children are tied up and must agree to behave before they are unbound. On Mother's Day, it is the mom's turn to be tied up, where she will remain until she supplies yummy treats and small gifts to her children. Finally it is father's turn. The dads are tied up with rope until they give their families Christmas gifts. At that point, everybody feasts.
For more universally inspiring moms, check out this TED Talks Playlist, Talks by Fierce Moms: https://www.ted.com/playlists/247/talks_by_fierce_moms