What is the history of Mother's Day?

RheaJulia Ward HoweCybele
Rhea of Greece ................ Julia Ward Howe of Boston................ Cybele of Rome

Contrary to popular belief, Mother's Day was not conceived and fine-tuned in the boardroom of Hallmark. Motherhood has always been celebrated. In prehistoric tribes the mother Goddess was worshiped as the creator of life. Female goddess figures are found in many archeological digs. In Egypt, Isis was the Queen of Heaven who ruled over all matters concerning mothering. In ancient Greece Rhea was revered as the mother goddess and in ancient Rome it was Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus, and another mother goddess known as Cybele. Most mothering festivals in early history were in the springtime to celebrate the rebirth of the land and the beginning of the most fertile time of the year. These festivities honored the goddess in all women.

During the 1600's, England celebrated a day called "Mothering Sunday." Mothering Sunday was celebrated on the Sunday of Lent (the 40-day period leading up to Easter), to honor the mothers of England. During this time many of England's poor worked as servants for the wealthy. Most of the servant's jobs were located far from home, so the servants would live at their employer's homes. On Mothering Sunday, the servants were encouraged to return home and spend the day with their mothers. A special cake, called the mothering cake, was often brought along to provide a festive touch. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, the celebration changed to honor the "Mother Church" — the spiritual power that gave people life and protected them from harm. Over time, the church festival became combined with Mothering Sunday and people began honoring their mothers as well as the church.

Across the ocean in Boston, Massachusetts, the first Mother's Day Peace Proclamation in 1870 was penned by Julia Ward Howe, social reformer and poet who also wrote the words to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." It was a rallying cry for women to press for peace and called for women to leave their homes to seek peaceful solutions to international affairs. This tradition spread, and was later organized in other areas of the country as well.

In 1907, Anna Jarvis took Howe's idea a step further and began to campaign for a nationally recognized Mother's Day. In the late nineteenth century, Jarvis's own mother had tried to establish "Mother's Friendship Days" as a way to heal the scars of the Civil War. Persuading her mother's church to celebrate Mother's Day on the anniversary of Jarvis's mother's death, the second Sunday in May, our Mother's Day holiday was born. By 1911, Mother's Day was being celebrated in almost every state in the country. On 9th of May 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the official proclamation that Mother's Day would be a national holiday to be celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May.


More than forty-six countries around the globe have a special day when they pay tribute to mothers. England for instance, celebrates Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday of Lent. Mother's Day is not celebrated on the same date in all countries. In fact, some countries, such as Ethiopia, do not celebrate Mother's Day at all. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium celebrate Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May, just like the United States.

In Cameroon, Mother's Day is celebrated on the last Sunday in May. On that day, mothers are chosen to lead the worship service in Lutheran churches. In Mexico, Mother's Day is celebrated on May 10th. It is very common for mothers to be serenaded the night before with mariachis or other types of music. In schools, children prepare dances, poems, songs, plays and presents to honor their mothers. It is a popular day to treat mother to a dinner out or for someone else to prepare a special dinner at home.

In Egypt, Lebanon and most other Arab nations, Mother's Day is celebrated on the 21st of March. Families usually gather for a special celebration and give gifts to their mother to honor her. In Egypt, an "ideal mother" is selected and honored for that year.

Both Argentina and India celebrate Mother's Day in October. In Argentina, it is the second Sunday of the month, while in India a 10-day festival is held in honor of mothers in early October.

Mother's Day is celebrated on December 22nd in Indonesia. It is common to send flowers or clean the house for mother on this day. A special dinner is prepared to honor her as well.

In Taiwan, the flowers most often associated with Mother's Day are the carnation and day lily. It is common to wear flowers representing one's mother, red if their mother is alive and white if their mother has passed away. Some people wear two flowers, one for their own mother and one for their mother-in-law.

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