Origins - The roots of Mother's Day

We all know that Mother’s Day is a time to give thanks to your mum. A chance to be grateful for all that she’s taught you, shown you,  and put up with over the years. It’s a tradition which allows us to take a moment to reflect, and be thankful – a positive and welcomed tradition. However, who really knows where the tradition of Mother’s Day comes from? Unlike the story of Christmas or Easter which is drummed into us from when we’re Primary school, the origins of Mother’s day are not well-known. 

The truth is, there are multiple origins of Mother’s day....

1.     The tradition can be traced back to ancient History, to the Greeks and Romans, who held celebrations for the mother Goddesses, Rhea and Cybele.

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2.     Mothering Sunday is a Christian Festival held on the fourth Sunday of lent. Usually, people would visit their local parish church, but on Mothering Sunday people would return to their ‘Mother Church’ (or the main church in the area), collecting wild flowers on their way there to give to their Mum as a symbol of gratitude.

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3.     Mother’s Day has completely different origins to Mothering Sunday, and is an American tradition which came much later. In 1908 Anna Jarvis from West Virginia started to campaign for a holiday to celebrate all mothers, after the death of her own. After much persuasion, President Woodrow Wilson finally made it an official holiday for the US in 1914. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting your Mum. However, as the celebration grew in popularity, the tradition became hugely commercialised, with flower, card, and food and drink companies exploiting the public holiday for maximum profit. Jarvis was disgusted by this, and by her death in 1948 had disowned the holiday completely. Unlike Mothering Sunday in the UK, Mother’s Day is celebrated in early May.

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4.     Other countries across the world celebrate their mothers at different times, and in different ways. In fact, 46 countries around the world celebrate a form of Mother’s Day.  In Thailand, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit. In Ethiopia, families gather each autumn to sing songs and gauge in a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.

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Whether it is a celebration in the middle of lent, or a huge autumnal feast, the core symbolism of Mother’s Day remains the same – to give thanks for your Mum. Like Anna Jarvis, it is easy to see how Mother’s Day can become over-commercialized, and (like Easter or Christmas) it can quickly seem to be about the presents, adverts, and supermarket deals. But in fact, what Mother’s Day means is entirely the opposite; it’s to get away from the shallowness of the everyday, and concentrate on the enduring nature of one of your core relationships. It is a day of reflection, compassion, and a chance to rekindle family connections.

It’s rare to get a chance to tell your family and friends how much you value their support, and we often need a day such as Mother’s Day to give us an excuse to say thank you. It’s something that is easy to forget as we all get wrapped up in our busy lives, but looking back to your origins can often help you in looking forward to the future. So try to view this Mother’s Day differently; don’t spend the next few days frantically buying overpriced flowers, but instead take some time to think about what it is which makes your mum great – and tell her. And if you’re going to get a gift (if you want to go beyond giving your presence as a present) then get something different, meaningful, and original.


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