many people might assume that Mother's Day is a holiday invented by the fine
folks at Hallmark, it's not so. The earliest Mother's Day celebrations can be
traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece, honoring Rhea, the
Mother of the Gods. The Romans called their version of the event the Hilaria,
and celebrated on the Ides of March by making offerings in the temple of Cybele,
the mother of the Gods. Early Christians celebrated the festival on the fourth
Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ.
recent times, relatively speaking -- England in the 1600s--the celebration was
expanded to include all mothers with "Mothering Sunday" being
celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter).
Besides attending church services in honor of the Virgin Mary, children returned
home from the cities with gifts, flowers, and special Mothering Day cakes that
were important parts of the celebration.
Day festivities in the United States date back to 1872 when Julia Ward Howe (her
other claim to fame was writing the lyrics for the "Battle Hymn of the
Republic") suggested the day be dedicated to peace. Ms. Howe would hold
organized Mother's Day meetings in Boston, Massachusetts ever year.
Ana Jarvis, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania school teacher, furthered the cause by
beginning a campaign to establish a national Mother's Day. Ms. Jarvis persuaded
her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother's Day on the
second anniversary of her mother's death, which happened to be on the 2nd Sunday
of May that year. By the following year, Mother's Day was also being celebrated
content to rest on her laurels, Ms. Jarvis and her supporters began to write to
ministers, businessman, and politicians in their quest to establish a national
Mother's Day and in 1912, the Mother's Day International Association was
incorporated for the purpose of promoting the day and its observance. By 1911,
Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the nation. In 1914,
President Woodrow Wilson made it official by proclaiming Mother's Day a national
holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May.
somewhat ironic that after all her efforts, Ana Jarvis ended up growing bitter
over what she perceived as the corruption of the holiday she created. She
abhorred the commercialization of the holiday and grew so enraged by it that she
filed a lawsuit to stop a 1923 Mother's Day festival and was even arrested for
disturbing the peace at a war mothers' convention where women sold white
carnations -- Jarvis' symbol for mothers -- to raise money. Ana Jarvis' story is
not a happy one. Things went from bad to worse and she eventually lost
everything and everyone that was close to her and died alone in a sanatorium in
1948. Shortly before her death, Jarvis told a reporter she was sorry she had
ever started Mother's Day.
be gone, but Mother's Day lives on, regardless of whether it meets her approval.
Many countries throughout the world celebrate Mother's Day at various times
throughout the year, but some such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey,
Australia, and Belgium also celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May.