While the official “Mother’s Day” holiday is a modern tradition with Western origins, almost every culture across time has celebrated mothers and motherhood.
Mother’s Day in America was begun by Julia Ward Howe. Deeply saddened by the continuous cycle of killing and death during the Civil War, Ho we called on mothers to stand together for these lofty goals:
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.
Anna Jarvis is credited with bringing Mother’s Day to the mainstream. At her church in 1908, she dedicated a Sunday in May to the memory of her mother, who had taught Sunday School for 20 years at the local church and who had used Howe’s Mother’s Day as a way to build peace between Northern and Southern mothers following the Civil War. Jarvis presented each parishioner with two white carnations, which have become a traditional Mother’s Day flower.
In the UK, Mother’s Day was originally known as Mothering Day and is traced back to the 1500s. It fell during Lent and was a Sunday in which servants were given a day off to travel back to their “mother church.” Family feasts would follow, and the mothers’ were feted with food, gifts, and flowers, much like modern moms.
In China, Mother’s Day has has been adopted as a way to show filial respect and to remind others of the plight of poor mothers.
Devastated by war, France was facing low birth rates during the early 20th century. To encourage large families, on Mother’s Day, women with many children (four or more) were awarded the Médaille de la Famille française.
In Indonesia, mothers are given the day off from domestic chores! As in most other celebrations of mothers across the world, mothers are given flowers, cards, parties, and gifts. The holiday was officially adopted as a way to celebrate the spirit of Indonesian women and to improve the nation.
Mother’s Day history is steeped in efforts for peace, caring for the poor, and cherishing our mothers. How will you celebrate this year?
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