By Maya Tabasz
The greatest love is a mother’s
then comes a dog’s, then comes a sweetheart’s.
— Polish proverb
The origins of the holiday date back to the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans when the Greeks paid annual homage to the titaness Rhea, the mother figure of their gods, and the Romans dedicated an annual spring festival to the mother of their gods, Cybele.
The modern form of the celebration of Mother’s Day in the United States began in the 19th century. While versions of Mother’s Day are celebrated worldwide, traditions vary depending on the country. In Thailand, for example, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.
The history of Mother’s Day dates back to the 19th century, when a mother by the name of Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” in order to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War. This day was also intended to promote a mother-encouraged reconciliation between union and confederate soldiers. Women were known for creating peace groups and organizations in the US and frequently tried to use these organizations to establish holidays and regular activities in favor of peace and against war.
Contrary to popular belief, Mothers Day was not conceived or fine-tuned in the boardrooms of Hallmark. Today’s Mothers Day holiday was actually established in May 1908, by Anne Jarvis, the daughter of a tirelessly dedicated mother of 11, Ann Jarvis.
Anne first started a campaign for a national Mothers Day after having wild success at the Church service she arranged on the anniversary of her own mothers death. She then gained the financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker and together, they spent countless hours writing to, petitioning and lobbying politicians, wealthy businessmen and ministers to establish a day to show support and love to your mother.
Originally, Mothers Day was meant to be a personal celebration between Mothers and families to celebrate motherhood and appreciate all mothers and mother figures in ones life. Mothers Day celebrations originally included wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services together with ones mother.
Today however, the present-day custom has evolved to include wearing a deep red or brightly colored carnation for your mother if she is alive and a white carnation if she has passed away. Anne chose white carnations for her first Mothers Day not only because they were her mother’s favorite flowers, but also to symbolize the sweetness, purity and endurance of a mothers love. Today, deep dark red carnations symbolize deep love and affection while white carnations represent pure love and good luck.
The first Mother’s Day celebration was organized at the Andrew’s Methodist Episcopal church in Grafton, West Virginia in honor of Ann Jarvis and has now officially become the International Mother’s Day Shrine and is a National Historic Landmark in tribute to all mothers including the sacrifices all mothers make for their children.
Following the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis resolved to see her holiday added to the United States national calendar and then later as an international holiday.
By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause.
Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as “Mother’s Day” — dedicated “to the best mother in the world, your mother” (Former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson). Although the date of the Holiday changes each year, it always remains on a Sunday.
Countries like Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Austria and Belgium join in the celebration of Mother’s Day on the same day as the U.S.
In carrying on these traditions of honoring your mother, we celebrate Mother’s Day in the U.S. by presenting our mothers and mother-figures with gifts such as flowers, cards, candies, jewelry, wine tasting and spa days among other things. Families also celebrate by giving mothers a day off from activities like cooking or other household chores.