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Why do we celebrate Mother’s Day?

This year, Sunday 30th March will mark the day when people all over the country will treat their mother’s to presents, flowers and lie-ins. The annual tradition of Mothers Day spans back centuries and is thought to have its origins with the ancient Greeks and Romans, although its presence in the UK has come and gone over the years. However, the practice of giving official thanks to our mums on a set day every 12 months has never been more widespread than it is today.

Mother’s Day around the world

And it’s not just a UK tradition – Mother’s Day is now celebrated in more than 40 countries across the world – albeit on different dates – and is a hugely popular affair. The earliest history of the custom dates back to the annual spring festival that was dedicated to maternal Goddesses by the ancient Greeks. The occasion was used to honour Rhea – the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.

The ancient Romans also celebrated a spring festival called Hilaria, dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. These ceremonies are thought to have taken place some 250 years before the birth of Christ.

Christian movement

Early Christians’ take on a Mother’s Day of sorts first appeared in the 1600s and took place on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honour of the Virgin Mary. In England this was expanded to include all mothers and then became known as Mothering Sunday. This initially involved a prayer service in honour of the Mother of Christ while children brought gifts and flowers in tribute to their own mothers.

However the celebration of Mother’s Day as it was had died out almost completely by the 19th century and it was the Americans who brought the custom back to the UK following the Second World War. It then became the more commercial enterprise that we know today.

American Tradition

mothers dayThe idea of having an official celebration of Mother’s Day in America was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872. The activist, writer and poet suggested that June 2 should be dedicated to Mother’s Day – and peace – in her well known Mother’s Day Proclamation. She tirelessly championed the cause and although the idea spread, it was later replaced by the Mother’s Day holiday now celebrated in May in the States. It is actually another woman, Anna Jarvis, who is recognised as the festival’s founder in America.

Anna Jarvis

She was inspired to celebrate the role of mothers by her own mum who expressed her desire for all mothers to be honoured for the sacrifices and contributions they make. Anna never forgot this and resolved to make it a reality following her mother’s death in the early 1900s. She gathered supporters and began writing letters to people in power, lobbying for the official declaration of a day dedicated to mothers.

By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in most states and, in 1914, a Joint Resolution was signed by President Woodrow Wilson declaring the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

After the war, the new look tradition made its way across the pond and to other countries such as Germany, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Mexico, China, Japan and Australia.

Commercialisation

More recently – and apparently to the huge disappointment of Anna Jarvis – the celebration has now become a hugely commercialised occasion through card manufacturers, florists and gift retailers. But however you choose to celebrate the event – whether it’s cards and flowers or a priceless handwritten poem – Mother’s Day remains the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves just how important our mums are.

 

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