15th May, 2012
FLOWERS FOR MUM: In Australia, chrysanthemum:s are traditionally given to mothers on Mother's Day. PICTURE: Robert Linder/sxc.hu
In Australia and many other countries around the world, Mother’s Day is about to come around again; the day in which we celebrate our mothers and their mothers and (if you’re kids aren’t intending doing anything for her) our wives. But where did Mother’s Day all start?
Setting aside a day or time for the celebration of mothers and all things maternal goes back to ancient times – both the Romans and Greeks set aside periods for the celebration of motherhood – while the English have celebrated a Mothering Sunday for centuries.
The idea of this day, celebrated since at least the 17th century, was to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus, and it’s always celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This day was also apparently a time when servants who had gone off to work were allowed to return to their home – or ‘mother’ – church and when doing so would bring back gifts for their mothers. A special cake, called a Simnel Cake, is often associated with the day.
In Australia and the US, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. While the writer and pacifist Julia Ward Howe apparently suggested a celebrating Mother’s Day as a day dedicated to peace as far back as 1870, it is Anna Jarvis, who interestingly never married or had children, who is recognised as the founder of Mother’s Day in the US.
Jarvis’ mother had apparently often expressed the wish that there should be a day to honor mothers (in fact she had been involved in the 1860s in the organising a Mother’s Friendship Day to bring together families divided in the US Civil War) and following her death in 1905, Jarvis moved to establish a formal, national, Mother’s Day.
She began lobbying for the official declaration of Mother’s Day and by 1911, almost every state in the US celebrated one. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution designating the second Sunday in May as the official Mother’s Day. (Jarvis apparently later became disillusioned by the commercialism of the day which she felt was at odds with her original vision for the day).
The day is now celebrated around the world, including in Australia (although it’s not a public holiday here). While many countries celebrate it on the second Sunday in May, there are numerous nations – including the UK – which have adopted another day.
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