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Where did the celebration of Mother’s Day come from?

Why we celebrate it might have different roots than what you think……..


Mother's Day. The second Sunday in May. Most of us in the US are very familiar with this day. But do you know the history of this day? Do you know why it is on our calendars each year? Want to learn more about the fascinating history surrounding Mother’s Day? I’m excited to share it with you so grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a short history lesson my friends!

It became an official US Holiday in 1914 thanks in large part to Anna Jarvis who created the American incarnation of Mother's Day just a few years earlier in 1908. Ironically, becoming an official holiday didn’t turn out how Jarvis envisioned it to be and so she spent the later years of her life trying to do the opposite of what she had previously worked so hard for–remove it from the calendar. Why? One word-consumerism. Read on to find out the fascinating history behind this special day and some fun facts surrounding Mother's Day!

Celebrations of motherhood can be traced all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman times during their festivals to honor their mother goddesses, Rhea and Cybele. Following this time period and transitioning into more modern times, the celebration took on a Christian perspective and became known as Mothering Sunday.

It was always held during Lent and was a time when Christian believers would return to their mother church for a special service. What’s a mother church? I didn’t know the answer to this either and was fascinated to find out that it was basically the church that was the closest to their homes, or their neighborhood church.

From what I gather, it would be the same thing today as the church you basically grew up in. Or for example, a college student who is away at college and goes to Sunday service in their college’s city, their mother church would actually be the one back home where their parents live. So it would be a day when everyone would congregate back to their “home” church and then partake in a specialized service just for that day.

As time evolved, it turned more secular in nature and children began presenting their mothers with flowers, etc. in appreciation of all that they did.

It was around the 19th century when the origins of how we celebrate Mother;s Day in the US first took place. Shortly before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis started what was known as Mothers' Day Work Clubs. The purpose of these clubs was to teach local women how to correctly and confidently care for their children. The war began soon after and it was actually these types of groups that helped unify the region of the country. In fact, in 1868, after the war had ended, Jarvis found herself organizing Mothers' Friendship Day where the groups gathered with former soldiers--both from the Union and Confederate sides. Their goal--reconciliation and unity.

This helped greatly for a time being and in 1970, another activist, Julia Ward Howe wrote a call to action asking mothers to take the efforts a step further and come together to promote world peace.

However, Ann Reeves Jarvis died shortly after the turn of the century in the early 1900s. Her daughter, Anna made it her mission to honor her mother and she started campaigning for Mother's Day to become a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

She held the first "official" Mother's Day celebration in 1908 at a Methodist Church and also an event was held by her sponsor the same day at his retail store. Following this success, she began heavily campaigning for this to become the norm and for this holiday to be added to the national calendar.

By 1912, many states had already adopted some form of Mother's Day as an annual holiday and just 2 short years later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially signed the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. And the rest is history!.....or was it?

Anna could now celebrate her successes! Right?! Nope. It actually backfired on her because she thought the holiday would be between mothers and their families, but it soon became commercialized and she publicly cried out for an end to it. She begged people to stop buying flowers and cards and no eval.

Today, Mother's Day is alive and thriving and in fact, it is one of the biggest holidays for consumer spending!


Fun Fact: Many female activists use Mother's Day to highlight political or feminist causes. In 1968, Coretta Scott King hosted a march in support of underprivileged women and children.


So what are your thoughts? Do you agree with Anna on wanting to stop the tradition of Mother's Day on our calendars? Or are you able to look past the consumerism aspect and see the day for what it is? A day to honor all those women (not just our own mothers), but all those women who have given so much of themselves to love on their children day in and day out. Is the consumerism aspect all that bad? Afterall, it gives us a chance to shower the women in our lives with gifts and maybe their favorite candies, flowers, etc. One day a year to focus on that doesn’t seem too bad in my mind.

No matter what stance you take on it, my hope is that you pour some LOVE back into your own mother or a mother you know who could use the encouragement. Let her know how valued and appreciated she is not only on Mother's Day, but everyday!

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