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In Celebration of Mothers

Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world, but not all nations celebrate on the same day. In the United States, Mother’s Day is always celebrated on the second Sunday in May – this year it is May 12th.  Countries such as Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, and Belgium also celebrate Mother’s Day on the same day as the United States. England however, celebrates Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and in Argentina it is the second Sunday in October. International Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 11th.

A Brief History of Mother’s Day

The earliest celebration honoring Mother’s Day dates back to the annual Spring festival of ancient Greece dedicated to Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. The Greeks would pay tribute with honey cakes, fine drinks, and flowers at dawn – Much like our current Mother’s Day tradition of breakfast in bed.  Ancient Romans, too celebrated a Spring festival (Hilaria) dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess.  The celebration lasted for three days and included parades, games, and masquerades.

Early Christians celebrated a Mother’s Day of sorts on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary. Later, in England, an ecclesiastical order expanded the holiday to include all mothers, and decreed it as “Mothering Sunday”.  On this occasion servants staying away from home were encouraged to return home and spend the day with their families and honor their mothers.

The idea for an official celebration of Mother’s Day in the United States came from Julia Ward Howe in 1872.  A writer, activist, and poet Julia shot to fame with her Civil War song, “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.  She suggested that June 2nd be annually celebrated as Mother’s Day and should also be dedicated to peace.  Julia tirelessly championed the cause of the official celebration of Mother’s Day and the declaration of the national holiday.

In 1907, Philadelphia school teacher, Anna M. Jarvis, began a campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day in honor of her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis. She wrote hundreds of letters to legislators and prominent businessmen on both state and national levels asking them to create a special day to honor mothers. On May 10, 1908, the third anniversary of the death of Anna’s mother, the minister of the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia (the church her mother had attended) gave a special Mother’s day sermon honoring Mrs. Jarvis’ memory. Anna handed out her mother’s favorite flower, the white carnation. In 1914, Anna’s hard work finally paid off when President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement proclaiming the second Sunday in May as a national holiday in honor of mothers ~ Mother’s Day.