Where Did the Tradition Begin?
Well, it did not begin with the greeting card companies! No, Hallmark did not invent Mother’s Day.
As a matter of fact, the tradition of celebrating Motherhood dates back to ancient Greece, where there was an annual springtime festival held in honor of Rhea, the mother of Greek deities. The Romans also celebrated Motherhood, and made offerings to Cybele, mother of the Roman gods.
“Mothering Sunday” has a fascinating story. This holiday was celebrated in 17th Century England, on the fourth Sunday of Lent. During this period in English history, the poor worked as servants for the wealthy class. These workers were often far from their homes, and consequently lived with their employers. “Mothering Sunday” was established, wherein the servants were given the day off, and encouraged to go home and to spend the day with their own mothers. There was even a special cake for the day that added to the festivity of the holiday.
European Christians honored “Mother Church” in a celebration much like Mother’s Day. The Church was considered to be the spiritual power that provided life and protection from harm. As time progressed, the Christian European tradition of celebrating the Church was combined with the British tradition of celebrating mothers; the Church and Mothers were then honored together.
In the United States Mother’s Day was first suggested in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe, a Boston poet, pacifist, suffragist, and author of the lyrics to “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Ms. Howe’s intention was to establish a day to encourage mothers to rally for peace. She believed that the mothers bore the loss of human life more profoundly than anyone else.
In 1907 Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia spearheaded a campaign to bring about a National Mother’s Day. She persuaded her own mother’s church in West Virginia to celebrate Mother’s Day on the anniversary of her mother’s death. She engaged the support of prominent businessmen and politicians to her cause.
In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed a bill recognizing “Mother’s Day” as a national holiday, to be celebrated on the second Sunday of May. A tradition was started by Anna Jarvis of passing out white carnations, which were her mother’s favorite. In another tradition, people wrote letters of appreciation to their mothers. Shortly thereafter, greeting cards came into existence, and flowers and gift giving became an ever-increasing activity associated with Mother’s Day. So much so, in fact, that Anna Jarvis became enraged. She believed that the original sentimental reason for a “Mother’s Day” was being sacrificed to profit and greed. Nonetheless, despite Jarvis’ misgivings, Mother’s Day, as we know it, has flourished.
In my opinion there should be ten Mother’s Days. Who deserves to be honored more than MOM? After all, she is the hub in the wheel of society. This, no one can deny.
~ Joan Saloomey
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“A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”
- Dorothy Canfield Fisher