Updated: May 25
The History of Mothers’ Day
The Origin of Mother’s Day can be attributed to Ann Reeves Jarvis and her daughter, Anna M. Jarvis. Ann Jarvis, the mother, was a lifelong activist, and where she was able to organize the “Mothers Day Work Club” to combat unsanitary conditions. She also proposed a Mother’s Friendship Day to promote peace between the Union and Confederate families after the Civil War. After her mother died in 1905, Anna M. Jarvis wanted to honor her work by creating a national holiday to commemorate all the work done by mothers.
On May 10th, 1908, a Mother’s Day service was held at a Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where the idea of setting aside the second Sunday of May came to be. West Virginia was the first state to acknowledge the holiday and gained national recognition when Representative J. Thomas Heflin of Alabama and Senator Morris Sheppard of Texas presented a joint resolution to Congress that Mother’s Day be observed nationwide. After the legislation was enacted, it would eventually lead to President Woodrow Wilson designating the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day in 1914.
Mother’s Day Today
Anna Jarvis would be disappointed in how commercialized Mother’s Day has become. From the flowers and cards advertised in the leadup to the special day, Anna Jarvis felt it was against the principle of what she was trying to accomplish. Not only that, but she finds it ironic that many organizations and foundations try to raise money during Mother’s Day, which goes against her mother’s original cause.
Holiday Cards were created in 1920 by Hallmark to sell for Mother’s Day, and that is where the tradition of showering mothers with gifts came from. This year, the United States will celebrate on May 14th, but how is it celebrated in other countries?
Mother’s Day in Other Countries
Although the principle of celebrating mothers’ hard work is the same, there are many ways that it can be celebrated, and it varies depending on the country you are in. Here are some examples of different ways governments around the world celebrate and honor their mothers:
We can start by discussing Mother’s Day in Peru, also known as Dia de Las Madres. I have experienced this because I am Peruvian on my mother’s side. My experience is similar to how it is celebrated in the United States since that is where I was raised, but in Peru, many families spend their day at the cemetery. This is to clean and decorate the graves of family members that have passed away.
France and The United Kingdom
After the many lives lost in World War I, France began awarding medals to families to express their gratitude for the sacrifice of their sons. After the second world war, the government declared the Fourth Sunday in May to be Mother’s Day. This year there are only three Sundays in May, so Mother’s Day falls on June 4th, 2023, for France. The traditional gift has now shifted into a flower-shaped cake.
The United Kingdom also has a different day to celebrate Mother’s Day because it is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Historically, people would take the day off and return to the church they were baptized in, known as their “mother church.” Nowadays, it has become celebrated similarly to in the U.S. with gifts and flowers, but the foundation of Mother’s Day in Great Britain is religious.
Interestingly enough, Mother’s Day in Bulgaria is celebrated every year on March 8th, International Women’s Day. This celebration started in 1910 and is celebrated worldwide in countries such as Chile, Croatia, Romania, Cameroon, Bosnia, and Herzegovina. This is a great way to commemorate all the women worldwide, including mothers and those who stepped into that parental role.
Whatever way you choose to celebrate Mother’s Day, it is important to remember its original purpose: to commemorate the sacrifice and hard work that mothers do daily. It is also essential to acknowledge and celebrate any adults who have stepped up for those who do not have a traditional matriarchal figure. Whether to visit them at the cemetery, shower them with gifts and affection, or buy them a cake, celebrate the little moments with your family, and spread that good energy to all the mothers in the world.
Amann, Laura. “Mother's Day Traditions Around the World.” Scholastic, https://www.scholastic.com/parents/family-life/parent-child/mothers-day-traditions-around-world.html. Accessed 6 May 2023.
Janssen, Hendrika. “Unique Mother's Day celebrations in Peru.” Peru For Less, 5 May 2014, https://www.peruforless.com/blog/unique-mothers-day-celebrations-in-peru/. Accessed 6 May 2023.
VanSchmus, Emily. “8 Traditional Ways of Celebrating Mother's Day Around the World.” Better Homes & Gardens, 29 September 2022, https://www.bhg.com/holidays/mothers-day/gifts/mothers-day-around-the-world/. Accessed 6 May 2023.