The celebration of Mother’s Day goes back to the ancient Greek and Roman era when they celebrated maternal goddesses. In most recent history, celebrating Mother’s Day on a Sunday started with United Kingdom’s old tradition of “Mother Sunday” during the season of lent. Until the present day celebration of this special day for mothers worldwide, it went through a history of significant changes and meanings.
Mother’s Day B.C.
Before the birth of Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity, the concept of a maternal goddess was long present in ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Both celebrated the festivity during the spring festival where their honoured the maternal goddesses, Rhea (Greek) and Cybele (Roman).
Rhea, the wife of Cronus, is the mother of many gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. The Greeks hence commemorated the spring festival to honour her. Ancient Romans dedicated their spring festivities to Cybele, the mother goddess of Roman mythology. The Romans celebrated their Mother’s Day on the Ides of March where offerings were made to the temple of Cybele. The offering together with parades, masquerades and other activities lasted for three days.
These ancient celebrations were marked as notorious and were eventually banned with the followers banished.
Christians’ Mothering Sunday
After the death of Jesus Christ and as Christianity spread to modern times, Christians celebrated Mother’s Day to honour the Virgin Mary. The festival was first celebrated during the fourth Sunday of Lent.
The United Kingdom made this event an annual holiday in the 1600s and was expanded to include the celebration of all mothers in the country. On this day, everyone heard mass in their mother church to honour Mother Mary. Hence, it was called “Mothering Monday.” Children from the working class were allowed to go home to visit their mothers on this special day. Children brought home gifts and cake to celebrate the occasion.
The custom of celebrating Mothering Sunday in England eventually died out by the 19 thcentury. It was not until after the 2 nd world war when two American women activists fought for the recognition of women in the country.
Julia Ward Howe: Mother’s Peace Day and Mother’s Day Proclamation
Julia Ward Howe, a writer and activist during the years of Civil War, wrote in 1870 the Mother’s Day Proclamation where she encouraged women who dedicated their lives as mothers to unite and promote World Peace. Three years later, Howe campaigned for the “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every 2 nd day of June.
Together with Julia Ward Howe, there were other notable women activists who inspired the celebration of Mother’s Day across the US before and during the Civil War. Ann Reeves Jarvis from West Virginia started the “Mother’s Day Work Club” dedicated to educating women on how to properly care for their children. Juliet Calhoun Blakely in the 1870’s helped encourage the local celebration of Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan. Frank Hering, the father of Mother’s Day, organized Mother’s Day celebrations towards the 20 th century with the help of Mary Towles Sasseen.
Anna Jarvis: Founder of Mother’s Day
Anna Jarvis is the daughter of Anne Reeves Jarvis and she is recognized as the official founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. Following her own mother’s death in 1950, she was resolved to fulfil her mom’s desire to celebrate a day to honour the sacrifices of mothers to their children.
Anna organized her first Mother’s Day celebration with the financial help of John Wanamaker, a department store owner in Philadelphia. She held the official event at a Methodist church in West Virginia while Wanamaker opened up his retail stores in PA to celebrate on the same day. Jarvis’ success was measured through the thousands of people who attended the Mother’s Day event in both West Virginia and Philadelphia.
Moving forward, Anna Jarvis fought for her Mother’s Day to be added to the US national calendar as an official holiday. She initiated a massive writing campaign to prominent politicians and publications arguing how biased the American holidays were to male achievements. Jarvis also established the Mother’s Day International Association by 1912 to help support her cause.
In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed an official measure to celebrate Mother’s Day every the second Sunday of the month of May. Anna Jarvis died unmarried and childless. She spent her last years taking Mother’s Day off the holiday calendar due to its massive commercialization.
Mother’s Day Today
While Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May in the US, many other countries worldwide celebrate this holiday on different dates. Each country has a different way of expressing their love and gratitude to their women who sacrificed so much for their children and their own countries.
To date, many countries all over the world continue to celebrate this special day for Moms. The specific spelling of “Mother’s Day” is used mean as a singular possessive noun to honour and celebrate the mother of each family.