On the 2nd Sunday of May, many countries celebrate Mother’s Day. Tough where did it all begin?
The thought of honouring mothers is by no means new. The Ancient Greeks were among the first to pay tribute to the concept of the Mother. Their annual spring festival, dedicated to the goddess Rhea, was a representation of fruitfulness and fertility. On this day people made offerings of honey cake and laid out flowers at dawn.
The Romans too had a celebration to honour their ‘Magna Mater’ or Great Mother. In Rome, a temple was built in her honour and in March each year, a festival was celebrated by the name of Hilarya. Gifts were brought to her temple to please this powerful Mother goddess.
In medieval Britain mothers too were honoured. Servants were given off the fourth Sunday of lent to travel home and spend the day with their mothers. This custom was called ‘Mothering Sunday’.
Mother’s Day, as we know and celebrate it in present times, was given birth by Anna Maria Jarvis (1864-1948). She admired her own mother’s efforts during the Civil War. Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis not only tended to the wounded soldiers but organised groups that took the pledge of friendship and goodwill. In a display of compassion and courage, the members of these clubs nursed soldiers from both sides of the conflict, saving many lives and easing tensions.
As History tells it, her daughter Anna Maria Jarvis, at the age of 12, overheard her mother praying that one day there would be a memorial day for Mothers and all the good they do. In 1907, at the anniversary of her mother’s death, Anna had a small gathering of friends in her home, to commemorate her mother’s life and work. She announced the idea of a national day to honour all Mothers. Anna and her supporters tirelessly wrote to ministers, business people and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother’s Day.
In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson makes it official, proclaiming that it would be a national holiday, celebrated each year on the 2nd Sunday of May. He stated that mothers were the greatest source of the country’s strength and inspiration and he ordered the US flag to be displayed on all public buildings. Carnations – the favourite flower of Anna’s mother – were worn that day. Pink or red honoured living mothers and white honoured mum who had passed on.
Soon afterwards the holiday started to be of commercial interest, especially to florists and greeting card companies. With each year, more and more mother’s day carnations were sold and their prices increased exponentially and a purchased card would replace the lovingly, handwritten letter. Anna was enraged and by 1924 she was so appalled by the commercialisation of the holiday that she petitioned to abolish it. In 1930 she was even arrested for disturbing the peace at a Mother’s Day carnation sale. She spent the rest of her life and family inheritance fighting the holiday.
Regardless of Anna’s efforts, Mother’s Day is still celebrated across the globe (though not everywhere on the second Sunday in May). We continue to celebrate mothers as the givers of life. Women as men alike honour the contributions and the sacrifices that mothers make and by them doing so, making this planet a more loving and warmer place. FAB Mother’s day to you all!