Celebrating mothers with a special day is a time-honored tradition practiced by many cultures and regions throughout the world.
Modern Mother’s Day Customs
Mother’s Day is that special day of the year when children of all ages try to show how much they appreciate their mothers. Mother’s Day celebrations often include honoring one’s mother with cards and flowers, a special mother’s day brunch or serving mom a special Mother’s Day breakfast in bed.
Children may enjoy surprising their mothers with a large box of chocolates on Mother’s Day, sweetly anticipating that moment when their mother offers to share some of the tasty treat with them.
It is also a time children proudly present their mothers with special hand-made Mother’s Day gifts, often bringing home cards or hand-written poems from school to surprise mom on her special day.
Many mothers treasure hand-made plaster cast plaques of their youngsters’ hands. This seemed a very popular Mother’s Day gift promoted for years by Sunday School teachers, preschools, and elementary school teachers.
Churches and business may even pay tribute to mothers on Mother’s Day by presenting corsages or special Mother’s Day gifts to honor the oldest and youngest mothers present, or the mother with the most children.
Celebrating mothers with a special day of their own is a relatively new holiday in North America and Europe. But the roots of modern Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to ancient pagan celebrations.
Historical Beginnings of Mother’s Day
Ancient Greeks celebrated a holiday honoring Rhea, “Mother of the Gods” and the Romans held an annual festival to Cybele, their “Great Mother of the Gods” on the 4th of April. Then from Roman Emperor Claudius onward, this festival lasted for not one, but six days, from April 4th-10th.
The original one-day pagan religious festival had become an annual cycle of festivals that extended from March 15th-27th. But then, as Christianity flourished and spread, this pagan celebration honoring the “Mother of the Gods” evolved into a Christian holiday honoring the “Mother Church.”
During the sixteenth century, according to Wikipedia.org, Britain’s “Mothering Sunday” was not a celebration of motherhood, but a name referring to Laetare Sunday or mid-Lent Sunday in the Christian liturgical calendar. Church services were held on the fourth Sunday of Lent and it was considered a time for people to return to the “mother church.”
Eventually, this church festival of “Mothering Sunday” began honoring mothers as well as the church. “Mothering Sunday” became a day domestic servants were given off to spend with their families.
Since many of England’s poor worked as servants, they often lived away from their families. Living in servants’ quarters in their employers’ homes, servants were rarely given a day off. The holiday of “Mothering Sunday” served as a rare opportunity for poor families to come together.
Mother’s Day Around the World
Britain still celebrates “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday in Lent, and it has evolved into a celebration much like the modern American Mother’s Day holiday. Mothering Sunday is also still celebrated in some Canadian Anglican churches, too. In addition to England, Sweden, India, China, and Mexico also celebrate Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday in Lent.
The United States, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. Still, several other countries celebrate Mother’s Day at different times.
On the last Sunday of May, French mothers are traditionally presented with a special cake at a family dinner to honor them on the designated Mother’s Day in France.
Slavic countries honor mothers at the beginning of Advent, tying Mother’s Day celebrations in with their Christmas season.
And, December 8th is when Mother’s Day is celebrated in Spain. That’s the same day as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.The celebration serves as a day to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus, as well as mothers in one’s family.
In the United States, Mother’s Day was first celebrated on the second Sunday of May in 1908. In 1910, the governor of West Virginia proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day, and then a year later every state celebrated it. President Woodrow Wilson eventually proclaimed Mother’s Day an official national holiday.
And now, nearly one hundred years later, Americans continue to celebrate Mother’s Day every year on the second Sunday of May.
Embassy of the United States of America, (2005, January 24). StockholmWeb@state.gov, Celebrate! Holidays In The U.S.A.,http://stockholm.usembassy.gov/Holidays/celebrate/mothers.html, Retrieved 3/3/2009.
LoveToKnow 1911, Classic Encyclopedia On-line version of the 11th Edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, (2006, Sept. 22). Great Mother Of The Gods, http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Great_Mother_Of_The_Gods, Retrieved 3/3/2009.
Lutheran Hour Ministries, (2008). The History of Mother’s Day, http://www.lhmint.org/mothersday/history.htm, Retrieved 3/3/2009.
Wikipedia, (2009, February 27). Anglican Church of Canada,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_Church_of_Canada, Retrieved 3/2/2009.
Wikipedia, (2009, March 1). Laetare Sunday, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laetare_Sunday, Retrieved 3/2/2009.
Wikipedia, (2009, February 14). Liturgical Year, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liturgical_calendar, Retrieved 3/2/2009.
Wikipedia, (2009, February 14). Mothering Sunday,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothering_Sunday, Retrieved 3/2/2009.