The History of Mother’s Day

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The theme of motherhood is one of the most common notion throughout almost all cultures – which is why so many countries around the world honor and celebrate Mother’s Day or something quite similar. In much of the world, Mother’s Day represents a time to think about the things that mothers and grandmothers have passed down to the younger generations and to express appreciation and love for this gift.

Rhea
Rhea

From a historical viewpoint, mothers in all cultures have served a key role in maintaining the cohesion of families across generations. Even these days, mothers act as a link between members of families who are often spread out over great distances. They help share and pass down family traditions and stories. This role is a large part of why Mother’s Day is such an important annual event, but there are other reasons as well.

Earlier celebrations

Historically, it’s believed that some of the earliest recognitions of “Mother’s Day” were festivals dedicated to various mother goddesses. For instance, the ancient Greeks held a festival in the spring in honor of the mother of all the gods and goddesses, Rhea. In Rome, their equivalent of a Mother’s Day festival honored their own mother goddess, Cybele.

Mothering Sunday

In England, a celebration known as Mothering Sunday is observed during Lent. While celebrated to honor Mary, mother of Christ, some historians suggest that this day may actually be a continuation of the original Cybele ceremony that the Romans in Britain practiced, with the church simply adapting this holiday for their own use. On the other hand, it may be that the church made use of the celebrations around a local, Celtic mother goddess.

  • During the 15th century, men and women in southern England who served as apprentices would often return home to visit their mothers on Mothering Sunday. Frequently, they would also bring their mothers simple gifts or basic jewelry, along with a special mothering cake. They also occasionally served an oddly-named, boiled concoction called frumenty.
  • In Scotland and northern England, pancakes fried in butter were served on this occasion. An alternative to the southern England mothering cake was the simnel cake, which was a kind of elaborate fruitcake.

While the custom of Mothering Sunday had largely died out by the 19th century, it was revived following World War II.

Mother’s Day in the United States

Anna Jarvis
Anna Jarvis

Mother’s Day in this country began almost 150 years ago. An Appalachian woman named Anna Jarvis started it off by organizing a day devoted to recognizing the terrible health conditions in the community around her. Since she felt that this effort would be best carried out by mothers, she decided to call it Mother’s Work Day. Following her death in 1905, her daughter Anna started a campaign intended to honor her mother’s memory by establishing an official Mother’s Day.

After lobbying various business owners and politicians ranging from Roosevelt to Taft, she slowly began to build support across the country for the idea. More and more states came to support Mother’s Day as an official holiday. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill making Mother’s Day an official national holiday.

Mother’s Day Evolves

Since 1914, Mother’s Day has grown into a big event in the United States. Across the country, children of all ages gather to visit their mothers and bestow their love in words and cards, as well as food and other gifts. When deciding on a Mother’s Day gift, a popular choice among many children is a piece of Mother’s Day jewelry, from simple rings and pendants to something more elaborate.

Engraved Mother's Birthstone Ring
Engraved Mother’s Birthstone Ring

Whether the gift is jewelry, flowers or a box of decadent chocolate, it serves as a symbol of a child’s devotion to his or her mother. Chocolate disappears quickly and flowers wither, however, while a tasteful piece of jewelry can serve as a permanent reminder.

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