Mother's Day Around the World

Posted by Alicia Baucom on May 1st 2020

Mother’s Day is upon us and there are many ways to celebrate the mothers in your life. Many attributes go into being a mother with commonalities across the span of time. There are many aspects about the holiday that you may not know such as from whence did it derive, the controversy that developed from it, and how do celebrations differ across the world.

History of Mother’s Day

Time and Date states that early Mother's Day celebrations can be dated back to the spring celebrations to honor Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, in ancient Greek civilization. Later, Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom was traditionally a day for people to visit the church where they were baptized, although it now also celebrates motherhood in modern times. The modern-day origins of Mother's Day can be attributed to two women – Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis, who were important in establishing the tradition in the United States. Around 1870, Julia Ward Howe called for Mother's Day to be celebrated each year. It continued to be held in Boston for about 10 years under her sponsorship but died out after that. In 1907, Anna Jarvis held a private Mother's Day celebration in memory of her mother, Ann Jarvis, in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1908, she played a key role in arranging a church service that attracted 407 children and their mothers. A Mother’s Day International Association was founded in 1912 to promote the holiday in other countries. Mother’s Day has grown increasingly popular since then.

Mother’s Day Controversy

It didn't take long for Anna Jarvis's Mother's Day to get commercialized, with Jarvis fighting against what it became. Jarvis never profited from the day, despite ample opportunities afforded by her status as a minor celebrity.  (source: National Geographic) Her efforts to hold on to the original meaning of the day led to her own economic hardship. While others profited from the day, Jarvis did not, and she spent the later years of her life with her sister Lillie. In 1943, she began organizing a petition to rescind Mother's Day. However, these efforts were halted when she was placed in the Marshall Square Sanitarium in West Chester, Pennsylvania. People connected with the floral and greeting card industries paid the bills to keep her in the sanitarium. (source: Wikipedia)

Mother’s Day Around the World

Despite Anna Jarvis’ efforts to end the holiday she first created; Mother’s Day in the USA often includes showering mom with bouquets of flowers, cards, and other gifts.  While there are some similarities, Mother’s Day around the world is not a one size fits all holiday. This section will look at how a few countries around the world uniquely celebrate Mother’s Day.   France: Amidst alarm at the low birth rate, there were attempts in 1896 and 1904 to create a national celebration honoring the mothers of large families. In 1906 ten mothers who had nine children each were given an award recognizing "High Maternal Merit." American World War I soldiers fighting in France popularized the US Mother's Day holiday. They sent so much mail back to their country for Mother's Day that the Union Franco-Américaine created a postal card for that purpose. In 1918, the town of Lyon wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day, but instead decided to celebrate a national day of mothers with large families. A 1950 law in France established Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday in May, except when it overlaps with Pentecost, in which case it’s pushed back a week. But beyond the date, Mother’s Day in France looks very similar to in the U.S.—cards and flowers are bestowed, and family dinners are had. (sources: Time and Wikipedia) Japan: Japan initially aligned Haha no Hi with the birthday of Empress Koujun, whose tenure spanned most of the 20th century. But Mother’s Day has since been moved to the second Sunday in May. The holiday is often celebrated with children drawing pictures of their moms, either to give to them or enter into art competitions. Giving your mother red carnations is very common in Japan as it is in most countries. (sources: Martha Stewart and  Time) Mexico: "Día de las Madres" is an unofficial holiday in Mexico held each year on May 10th, the day on which it was first celebrated in Mexico. To show affection and appreciation to the mother, it is traditional to start the celebration with the famous song "Las Mañanitas", either a cappella, with the help of a mariachi or a contracted trio. Mexican Mother’s Day history dictates a traditional breakfast of tamales and atole, which is a hot drink made from corn. Families usually gather to celebrate, trying to spend as much time as possible with mothers to honor them. They bring some dishes and eat together or visit a restaurant. (sources: The Bump and Wikipedia) Poland: Called “Dzień Matki” in Poland, Polish Mother’s Day history dates back to 1923 in Krakow, though the celebration didn’t really take off until the years following World War II. It is now annually celebrated on May 26, with schools hosting special events where children present their moms with sheets of paper known as “laurki,” decorated with flowers and special messages of love. Mother’s Day is an official holiday in Poland, so shopping and eating out isn’t an option. When family members come to visit their mothers and grandmothers, the festivities are held at home and gifts given include flowers and cake. (source: The Bump) United Kingdom: As early as the 16th century, the U.K. observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent a day called Mothering Sunday, when families came together to attend church. This holiday has its roots in the church and was originally unrelated to the American holiday. In the early 20th century, Mothering Sunday—which had evolved into a tradition of spending family time at home—was fused with the Hallmark-card-giving American holiday, but it has retained its traditional name and date. The traditions of the two holidays are now mixed together and celebrated on the same day, although many people are not aware that the festivities have quite separate origins. (sources: Time and Wikipedia) To see what’s currently on sale at ILA please sign up for our newsletter, view our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website.