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How Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world

Jun 15, 2023 09:47AM ● By Verlene Johnson

Many countries around the world have celebrated motherhood for centuries. Different countries celebrate motherhood in different ways from religious and historical reasons to legendary and secular reasons. Some traditions of celebrating mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele. One tradition from the United Kingdom and parts of Europe is to celebrate mothers on the fourth Sunday during Lent calling it Mothering Sunday. “It was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church”—the main church in the vicinity of their home—for a special service,” according to For Thailand and Japan their “Mothering Sunday” is celebrated on the birthdays of important women in their countries. 

Over time this tradition that was most often called ‘Mothering Sunday,’ shifted into a more secular holiday, following the traditional American holiday, which is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Some of these countries are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, Philippines and South Africa, along with most European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom and Ireland which still celebrate Mother’s Day during Lent and France which celebrates on May 25. Additionally, most Arab countries celebrate during the Vernal Equinox, March 21; while Russia celebrates March 8 in conjunction with Women’s International Day; Mexico's Mother’s Day is always celebrated on May 10.

You may be asking yourself ‘When did Mother’s Day first start in America?’ Back in the nineteenth century in the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia wanted to help teach local women how to properly care for their children by starting a “Mothers’ Day Work Club.” In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,'' where mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation, according to

Though the nineteenth century many women worked to promote the celebration of motherhood, namely, abolitionist and suffragette, Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870; temperance activist, Juliet Calhoun Blakely who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan in the 1870s; Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering worked to organize an official Mother’s Day in the late 19th early 20th centuries. However, it was Jarvis’s own daughter, Anna Jarvis who after many long years of arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, started a massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and politicians, urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood. By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson officially established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. 

By 1920 Jarvis had become disgusted with the holiday that’s original purpose was to be a day of personal celebration between mothers and families had become commercialized by card, flower and candy companies. She outwardly denounced the transformation of Mother’s Day becoming commercialized and urged people to stop buying those things for the holiday. Eventually, she spent most of her personal wealth in legal fees launching countless lawsuits against groups who were using the name “Mother’s Day.” By 1948, the year Jarvis died, she had disowned the holiday altogether and had actively lobbied the government to remove it from the American Calendar. 

Despite Jarvis’s efforts, Americans continue to celebrate Mother’s Day by presenting their mothers with gifts and flowers. Some families also celebrate by giving mothers a day off from activities like cooking or other household chores. It is also becoming more popular to not only honor mothers but to honor all women, whether they are a mother or not. Despite some women dreading the holiday, most look forward to being pampered and spoiled on the second Sunday in May each year.

The Morgan County News would like to wish mothers everywhere a very happy Mother’s Day. λ

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