Mothers Day is celebrated on May 10th this year. The national holiday is over 100 years old in the United States, but it actually has ancient roots. According to History.com, the Ancient Romans and Greeks had celebrations of motherhood and mothers. The first know predecessor of the holiday was the Christian festival of Mothering Sunday. On the fourth Sunday of lent, people took the time to visit their main or “mother” church. The festival soon morphed into a time for family reunions. Mothering Sunday is still observed in Europe.
The Mother’s Day holiday in the U.S. began in the 1850’s, when Ann Reeves Jarvis started Mother’s Day work clubs in West Virginia. The clubs were organized as a way for women to work in order to decrease infant mortality, care for soldiers in the Civil War, and to improve sanitation. According to National Geographic, after the death of Reeves Jarvis in 1905, her daughter Anna Jarvis arranged the first Mother’s Day celebration on May 10, 1908 at a church that is now known as the International Mother’s Day Shrine in Grafton, West Virginia. White carnations, which were passed out at the event, soon became a symbol of the day in cities across the country.
On May 11, 1913 the national holiday had its beginning celebration when the House of Representatives wore the symbolic white carnations in honor of their mothers. Soon after, in 1914, Representative James Heflin introduced legislation to declare the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. It quickly passed through both the House and Senate; following this, on May 9, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a presidential proclamation making the second Sunday of May Mother’s Day, a holiday to express reverence and love for mothers in the country.
The floral industry prospered in the early days of the celebrations of Mother’s Day. White carnations had become a symbol of the holiday, and were a must-have item. Gifts of flowers, jewelry, and other items for mothers soon became the norm. Jarvis never meant for Mother’s Day to become a holiday about gifts, it was supposed to about sentiment. She wanted people to spend time with their mothers and write letters to them, not lavish them with gifts, according to Mental Floss.
Jarvis became so angry with what Mother’s Day had become that she spent the end of her life trying to revoke the holiday, and fighting against the floral industry. She threatened legal action on people who sold carnations with the words Mother’s Day on them. She died alone, a poor recluse in Marshall Square Sanitarium, a closed mental institution that was located in Chester, PA.
The holiday has become very commercialized, the average American will spend $172.63 on their mother this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2015 Mother’s Day Spending Survey. Since the survey began 12 years ago, that is the highest amount spent. In reality, though most mothers do not want expensive gifts, at least according to some popular mom bloggers they want the day off. They want to sleep in, not have to cook, or clean, and have time to themselves.
Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world. Celebrations are different in other places, but they have the same theme. In Thailand, the holiday is celebrated on August 12 to honor Queen Sirikit. Mexico celebrates it every May 10, and in the Fall Ethiopian families get together and sing songs and have a feast for Antrosht, a celebration of mothers.
By Jessica Hamel
Photo by Mike and Annabel Beales-Creativecommons flickr License