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Friday, May 10, 2013

The History of Mother's Day

Believe it or not, Mother’s Day has been around for centuries. The ancient Greeks celebrated Rhea, mother of the gods, while the ancient Romans honored their mother goddess, Cybele. The Romans were quite a randy bunch and it is well known that the Cybele revelers were banished from Rome! Nothing like getting crazy on Mother’s Day, huh? In Britain, the goddess Brigid was honored with a spring celebration each year, in concurrence with the first milk of the ewes.
The origins of the more modern Mother’s Day come from Britain when in the 17th century, they celebrated “Mothering Sunday.” This holiday was celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was set aside for apprentices and laborers to have a day to go home and visit their mothers. They would bring along a fruitcake type delicacy called simnels and would dine on furmenty, which was a sweet boiled cereal dish. Nothing like cereal and fruitcake to celebrate good old Mom, eh? By the 19th century, Mothering Sunday was just another day in the life of the British population. Anna Reeves Jarvis established “Mothers’ Work Days” in the mid-1800s to work for better sanitary conditions during the Civil War. She continued the practice after the war to help establish reconciliation between the two sides.
Julia Ward Howe, the author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, also worked towards establishing a “Mother’s Day for Peace” in the late 1800s. This day was set aside for honoring mothers, women and peace. In 1873, 18 cities held a “Mother’s Day for Peace” gathering. Once Howe stopped financially supporting the holiday, it quickly died off and we were left without a Mother’s Day once again.
Finally, in 1907, Anna Jarvis began the journey to establish the day we now know as Mother’s Day. It was her own mother’s dying wish to establish a day on which all mothers, living and dead, were honored. She began her crusade by passing out 500 white carnations to members at her mother’s church, one for each mother in the congregation. In 1908, the first church held a service honoring mothers per Jarvis’ request. Also that year, John Wanamaker joined in the fight to establish an official Mother’s Day. The first bill was presented to the US Senate that year and was declined 33 to 14. The following year, 48 states plus Canada and Mexico were celebrating Mother’s Day with special church services. Jarvis continued to push for an official holiday, eventually quitting her job to spend all of her time writing letters to legislators and any group who may have influence in Washington. Her efforts finally paid off in 1914 when the US Congress passed a Joint Resolution establishing Mother’s Day as an official holiday.
Jarvis became increasingly despondent over the commercialization of Mother’s Day, however, and spent the rest of her life protesting various Mother’s Day celebrations and businesses, especially florists, who marketed the holiday for financial gain.
Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world on various days. In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the 2nd Sunday in May, just as it is in many other countries, including Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium. In Spain, Mother’s Day is actually celebrated as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when all mothers are honored, especially Mary, the mother of Christ. France celebrates the holiday in late May when families eat a special cake resembling a bouquet of flowers. Great Britain re-instituted “Mothering Sunday” after WWII.

Gift Ideas for Moms There are so many different mothers, which presents many gift ideas to choose from. Traditionally, flowers, especially carnations, are given to the mother or worn as a corsage. White carnations are worn to honor a mother who has died, while pink carnations honor mothers still alive. Most moms will receive a phone call from their kids: Mother’s Day boasts the highest number of long-distance calls on any one day of the year. Moms often get to leave the kitchen on Mother’s Day too: most restaurants report that Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year.
Want to do something special for Mom this year? Make a personal card for her and include a letter telling her how much she means to you. Purchase and plant a tree or shrub in her yard that she can enjoy for years to come. Whatever you do, make sure you let her know how important she is to you. One last thing: don’t forget YOU are a mother too! Take some time to spend with your children and enjoy the blessings that motherhood brings to your life. Most importantly, let this be a day of love and family: for without these things, we are truly nothing.
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