Mother’s Day WhatsApp forwards, social media posts, etc. have already begun trending, though the US version of the day, which is increasingly observed in India too, falls on the second Sunday of May, which is May 14 this year.
While the American Mother’s Day has become popular across the world, various other countries have their own versions of the occasion and observe it on different days.
Here is a look at Mother’s Day celebrations around the world, and how they came about.
The American Mother’s Day
The US holiday came into being thanks mainly to the efforts of one activist called Anna Jarvis.
Anna was born in 1854, in the Civil War years, and lost some of her siblings to diseases like measles, typhoid, and diphtheria. Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, driven partly by her own experiences, spent her life working for causes centred around motherhood, such as teaching mothers sanitation to prevent child mortality, and forming a community of mothers from both sides of the Civil War divide to work for peace.
A young Anna once heard her mother say, “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will find a memorial mothers’ day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”
As she grew up, Anna made the founding of a ‘Mother’s Day’ her life’s mission. She wrote letter upon letter to politicians, businessmen, and church leaders to enlist support for her cause, proposing the second Sunday of May as a day dedicated to celebrating mothers, with a white carnation – her mother’s favourite flower – as the day’s emblem. She chose that particular day so that the date would be close to May 9, when her mother had died.
Her efforts were rewarded in 1908, when two large Mother’s Day events were held, in her hometown of Grafton and in Philadelphia. On May 8, 1914, a Bill to formally recognise Mother’s Day was signed by then US President Woodrow Wilson.
Later, as Mother’s Day celebrations became a lot about greeting cards and candies, Anna protested bitterly against the commercialisation of the occasion.
Anna wanted the day to be called Mother’s Day and not Mothers’ Day, because she wanted the celebration to honour the individual mother who cares for her family at home — “For the Best Mother who Ever Lived—Your Mother.” However, in some other countries, the day has more religious or political overtones.
Mothering Sunday in the UK
The British Mothering Sunday is far older than Mother’s Day, believed to have medieval origins. Traditionally, this day was observed on the fourth Sunday of Lent, the 40-day period that usually begins in February and ends in April. On Mothering Sunday, people went to pray in their ‘mother church’, or the church where they were baptised. For people working away from their hometowns or villages, thus, this day also became an occasion when they visited their mothers.
The modern push for the day came from Constance Adelaide Smith, who read about Anna Jarvis’s Mother’s Day in 1913, and decided that instead of importing an American holiday, the UK should revive its Mothering Sunday.
According to an article in Oxford University Press, “In books, cards, plays, and poems Constance Smith explained the meaning of Mothering Sunday and encouraged the making and giving of traditional foods, such as simnel cakes [a type of fruit cake] and wafer cakes. By 1938 it was said that Mothering Sunday was celebrated in every parish across Britain and in every country of the British empire.”
Over the years, the American Mother’s Day has become popular in the UK too.
In other countries
In Russia and some of its neighbouring countries, Mother’s Day is often clubbed with International Women’s Day, which has its origins in rights movements and the struggle for women’s right to vote.
Apart from these, Thailand celebrates Mother’s Day on August 12, the birthday of Queen Mother Sirikit.
According to the History channel, “another alternate observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood”. Antrosht is observed in the fall season, just after the rains.
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