What are the origins of Mother’s Day?


What are the origins of Mother’s Day?

Both Mothering Sunday in the UK and Mother’s Day in the United States celebrate the heroic roles mums and maternal figures play in our lives. However, the origins of each holiday are very different.

When did people start celebrating Mothering Sunday?

Although the exact date of the first Mothering Sunday celebrations is unknown, the holiday is a Christian tradition stemming back to the 17th Century. At this time, churchgoing was a big part of British life, and Christians were encouraged to return to the ‘mother’ church where they were baptised at least once a year. The mother church was the main church or cathedral in the area.

Mother's Day tulips

In the 1600s, many people left home at a very young age to find work. Each year, they would be allowed to take the day off on the fourth Sunday of Lent to return to their hometown and visit their mother church (as well as their own mother!)

On their way home, children would pick wildflowers to present to their mother as a gift. And, of course, flowers are still a traditional Mothering Sunday gift. 

The day was also known as Refreshment Sunday because the fasting rules for Lent were relaxed just for that day. As such, many people baked and shared simnel cake — a light fruit cake layered with marzipan.

Mother’s Day in the UK actually has no connection with the American Mother’s Day, which takes place in May instead of March.

Mother’s Day in the United States

The American Mother’s Day holiday has more precise origins than the UK’s. On the 12th of May 1908, Anna Jarvis, from West Virginia, held a memorial service for her late mother. The idea of a holiday to celebrate mothers spread, and grew more popular — first in Virginia, and then in other states. Jarvis campaigned to make the date a recognised holiday.

Eventually, in 1914, President Wilson proclaimed it a national holiday to be celebrated on the second Sunday of May.

By the 1920s, Mother’s Day had become a commercial holiday, with companies like Hallmark selling cards and gifts. Anna Jarvis became disillusioned with the commercialisation and tried to campaign for it to stop. 

Despite her protestations, Mother’s Day has continued to be a popular holiday.

Mother’s Day around the world

Many other countries — including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, the Philippines and South Africa — followed in America’s footsteps, and celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. 

Some countries already had existing celebrations honouring motherhood but adopted some parts of the American holiday — for example, gift-giving.

In Bolivia, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the 27th of May. It commemorates the Battle of La Coronilla, which took place in 1812. In the battle, many women fought and died for the country’s independence and to protect their children.

In the Dominican Republic, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the last Sunday in May.

The French honour Mother’s Day in late May or early June, depending on when Pentecost falls. The celebration was influenced by American soldiers who fought in France during the First World War and wrote home to their mothers for the US holiday created by Anna Jarvis.

In Panama, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of December, the same day as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It has been the chosen date since 1930. 

In Poland, “Dzień Matki” is an official holiday to celebrate mothers. It falls on the 26th of May each year.  Many schools host special Mother’s Day events.

Thailand’s Mother’s Day, “Wan Mae,” is celebrated on Queen Sirikit’s birthday — the 12th of August. The Thai queen is fondly considered the symbolic mother of the country. White jasmine flowers or garlands are traditional gifts given to mothers and maternal figures.

Celebrating Mothering Sunday This Year

Have you got any plans for celebrating Mother’s Day this year? As a mother yourself, how would you most like to spend the day? Or as a partner, how will you pamper the women in your life?

Whatever you end up doing, remember you can always share yours and your little one’s special celebrations with your family using your MySunshine timeline!

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