Mother’s Day is a day of thanking mothers across the world for all they do for their children. It is celebrated around the globe on different days ranging from February to December.
While in many countries, its success is commercially driven, as a business or means of fundraising.
This being said, the origins of the celebration, for many, are rooted in religion or history. Here’s a breakdown of dates and from where the tradition first started.
The History of Mother’s Day
Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” This festival sprang up to replace the festivals of the ancient Greeks and Romans, which was usually held in honor of their mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.
This was once a major tradition in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. This celebration fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was originally seen as a time when the faithful would return to their “mother church” which is the main church in the vicinity of their home, for a special service.
As time went on, the Mothering Sunday tradition shifted into a more secular holiday, and then, children would present their mothers with flowers and other tokens of appreciation. This custom eventually faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
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 United States celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May.
In its present form, Anna Jarvis held the first Mother’s Day in honor of her late mother on May 10, 1908, in West Virginia.
At that time, Jarvis campaigned to establish Mother’s Day first as a United State’s national holiday and then later as an international holiday. It was officially declared as a holiday by the state of West Virginia in 1910, with other states quickly following suit.
Many countries across the world follow the US and celebrate on this day, including the below:
The United Kingdom
Residents in the UK celebrate “Mothering Sunday” on the fourth Sunday of Lent
The holiday originated from the church, as most historians believe that it evolved from the 16th-century Christian practice of visiting mothers on the fourth Sunday in the season of Lent (Laetare Sunday).
Merchants saw a great commercial opportunity at the festival. This made the celebration became popular again in the whole of the UK in the 1950s.
Some other countries who were formally under the British colony also follow in this tradition, such as Nigeria, as well as the self-governing dependencies of the United Kingdom Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
The French celebrate “Fête des Mères” on the last Sunday in May, except for times when Pentecost falls on the same day. In this case, it will be moved to the first Sunday in June, in accordance with a law passed in 1950.
The same law requires the Republic to pay official homage to French mothers.
In terms of its origins, some cities in France began to celebrate a “la Journée des mères”, meaning Mother’s Day, in 1918. This was a day on which “mothers of large families” were honored in an effort to increase the population.
Since then, it enjoyed a publicity boost under the Vichy regime and then after France’s liberation in 1944, again as part of efforts to repopulate the country.
Some former French colonies also observe Mother’s Day on the last Sunday in May or the first Sunday in June.
Until 1965, “Día de la Madre” was originally celebrated in Spain on “Virgin’s Day”, December 8. It is recently on the first Sunday of May, the month dedicated to the Virgin Mary according to the Catholic faith. This is a popular and commercial celebration.
The Portuguese celebrated the “Dia da Mãe”. It was an unofficial holiday, held on the first Sunday of May. Like Spain, it was formally observed on December 8, the same day as “The Feast of the Immaculate Conception” celebration.
In Hungary, Mother’s Day is also celebrated on the first Sunday of May. It was first celebrated in 1925 by the Hungarian Red Cross Youth.
“Muttertag” was established by the Association of German Florists and usually falls on the second Sunday in May.
Marianne Hainisch, founder of the Austrian women’s movement, is regarded as the initiator for the spread and establishment of Mother’s Day in 1924.
She found support in the form of the Scout movement, which also backed the establishment of a day for mothers. Like Germany, Austria observes Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May.
When the Swiss pastry chefs, bakers, and florists recognized the money German traders were making on Mother’s Day, they subsequently imported the festival to their own country. They still observe it on the same day.
Greece and Cyprus
Greeks and Cypriots also celebrate Mother’s day on the second Sunday in May, like most countries of the world. Just as mentioned earlier, Ancient Greeks used to celebrate their annual spring festival to honor Rhea, wife of Cronus and the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.
The origins of Mother’s Day in the Arab world can be traced back to Egypt in 1956 where it was introduced by journalist Mustafa Amin. The practice has since been mirrored by other Arab countries.
Many Arab countries celebrate Mother’s Day on March 21 or the Spring equinox. This is commonly regarded as the moment the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the center of the sun’s disk
These include Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, Qatar and Syria and among others.
For the Jewish population of Israel, Mother’s Day has evolved recently into a “Family Day” and is used to celebrate mutual love inside the family.
It falls on Shevat 30 of the Jewish calendar, between January 30 and March 1.
The celebration originated from the day of remembrance for the death of Henrietta Szold (February 13, 1945) and whose organization Youth Aliyah rescued many Jewish children from Nazi Germany and provided for them.
Russians celebrate a form of Mother’s Day on International Women’s Day, on March 8.
People show appreciation not just to their mothers, but sisters, aunts, grandmothers, wives, and girlfriends by giving a small gift, usually flowers.
This is also echoed in many countries that formed part of the Soviet bloc.
In Ukraine, International Women’s Day is a public holiday, which some people observe but others boycott due to its Soviet links.
Mother’s Day celebrated on the second Sunday in May, is also becoming more popular each year, encouraged by commerce.
Another alternate observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.