With mother’s day approaching at the end of the month here in the UK I started doing some research into the history of the celebration. Festivals based around mothers and motherhood are evident in ancient Greek and Roman culture. Classical Greeks would honour Rhea in their annual Spring Festival who was the mother of all Olympian Gods and Goddesses and later the Romans also celebrated a Spring Festival called Hilaria to honour Cybele, their mother of Gods. I always knew the UK version originated from the church, it traditionally falls on the fourth Sunday of lent and was originally a time when Christians would return to their “mother church” in their home town for a special service. Traditionally called “Mothering Sunday” this seems to be the first modern precedent for an official Mother’s Day which this year will fall on 31st March 2019.
While Mothers Day is celebrated in some form in nearly every country worldwide, by far the most popular date for it to fall on, from Anguilla to Zimbabwe, is 12th May. While different countries have various traditions relating to this date, origins in the USA date back to 1908 and the day became an official US holiday seven years later. In the time before the civil war Anne Jarvis began hosting “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to help teach local women of West Virginia how to properly care for their children, these clubs later became a powerful unification in a region of the US still divided over the civil war. In 1968, to further her strive for unity, Jarvis organised a “Mothers’ Friendship Day” to gather former Union and Confederate soldiers together to restore and mend friendships between the two sides. Over the years the date transitioned into a day to honour motherhood by spending time with loved ones and the giving of gifts to mothers. Sadly Jarvis disliked the commercialisation of the celebration and spent much of her later life trying to remove the holiday from the calendar.
This special day is observed with the giving of gifts and cards on many different dates, year round, throughout the world and much of the history is focussed around women’s heroism, achievements and tragedy.
8th March: Several countries around the world celebrate Mothers Day on the same day as International Women’s Day. In Albania this date also commemorates 129 mothers who died in a tragic textile factory fire in 1908.
12th May: In Australia, Mothers Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May which falls on the 12th this year. The tradition began when Janet Heyden was visiting a patient at the Newington State Home for Women in Sydney where she met many lonely and forgotten mothers. Moved by the women, she asked local businesses to donate gifts and arranged for local school children to visit the mothers with the presents. Her cause grew in popularity year by year until it eventually became a nationwide celebration of her compassion.
19th May: Mothers Day is a three day celebration in Ethiopia which falls at the end of the rainy season in mid Autumn, this year on the 19th May. Families have feasts, men sign songs and mothers and daughters oil themselves with butter on their faces and chests.
27th May: on this day in Bolivia in 1812 women, with their husbands away in battle, stood up and fought the Royal Spanish troops to defend their children.
12th August: Mother’s Day is celebrated on this day in Thailand to coincide with Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday.
22nd December: This date was established in Indonesia as the anniversary of the first woman in congress in 1928.