uMother’s Day is not a celebration that started in the US only a century ago, but a long tradition that has its roots in Ancient Greece, honoring the mother, as the life-giver.
Mother Earth (Gaia), wife of Uranus, was the personification of nature that gives birth to everything and she was worshipped as the ultimate deity. Her worship then passed to her daughter Rhea, wife and sister of Cronus, who gave birth to several deities in Greek mythology. Rhea was worshipped as the ‘Mother of Gods’ and ancient Greeks used to celebrate their annual spring festival to honor Rhea, the goddess of nature and fertility.
Ancient Romans also celebrated a spring festival by the name of Hilaria in honor of mother goddess Cybele, some 250 years before Christ was born.
Mothers Day is celebrated in over 40 countries, but we don’t all celebrate it on the same day.
Here in the UK, Mothering Sunday (commercially Mother’s Day) is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This holiday has its roots in the church and was originally unrelated to the American holiday, The tradition started back in the 16th century when poor children were given a day off work to go home and honour the Virgin Mary at their “mother church”. The children would often pick flowers to give to their mothers and bake special cakes called Mothering Cakes or Simnel Cakes.
As a result of this tradition, most mothers were reunited with their children on this day when young apprentices and young women in service were released by their masters for that weekend. As a result of the influence of the American Mother’s Day, Mothering Sunday transformed into the tradition of showing appreciation to one’s mother.
The USA is where the modern Mother’s Day, as we know it, started. Although many forms of Mother’s day existed before typically with religious roots, Mother’s day is now considered a secular day of celebration, during which mother’s are showered with gifts and cards. The modern day tradition was first conceived at the beginning of the 20th century when a woman called, Ann Reeves Jarvis’s mother died. She wanted to have a national day for people to honour the sacrifices mothers make for their children.
In France, Fête des mères takes place on the last Sunday of May, but is moved to the first Sunday of June if Pentecost falls then. The day of celebration was first declared by Napoleon, who wanted to reward mothers of large families. This tradition was revitalised during the First World War, when mothers of four or five children were given medals. The modern fête des mères was officially founded in 1950. French children will traditionally do chores for their mums, and give them gifts, such as handwritten poems, flowers and cakes. A large, celebratory meal ends this hopefully relaxing, enjoyable day.
In culturally diverse India, a westernised version of Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, when Indians reflect upon the importance of mothers in their lives and the sacrifices they have made.
However, Hindus in India celebrate the goddess Durga, or Divine Mother, during a 10-day festival called Durga Puja in October. Durga Puja celebrates the triumph of good over evil and is earmarked by gifts given to friends and family, as well as feasts and celebrations. You certainly can’t beat a good over evil victory!
Dia das Mães is incredibly popular in Brazil – in fact it is the second most commercial holiday celebrated (the first being Christmas). Brazil commemorates this special day on the second Sunday in May with special children’s performances and church gatherings, which often culminate in large, multi-generational barbecues.
In Japan Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May and is symbolised by beautiful carnations — which represent the gentle strength of mothers who are revered in Japanese culture. Children draw pictures of their mothers in school and sometimes enter them in art competitions. Like most other countries, Mother’s Day is a day of pampering for mums — children help take over the household chores, have a special family meal, like sushi or eggs, and give their mothers red carnations or roses and cards.
Another country which relies heavily on the giving of carnations and other flowers is Australia, where Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Chrysanthemums are also a very popular floral choice, originally due to a marketing gimmick playing on the fact they end with ‘mum’.
In Ethiopia, Mother’s Day is celebrated at the end of the rainy season, as part of the three-day Antrosht festival, dedicated to mums. When the weather clears up and the skies empty of rain, family members come home to celebrate with a large feast. Daughters traditionally bring vegetables, butter, spices and cheese, while the sons bring meat of various types, including lamb or beef.
Peru celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May and are complete with gifts, chocolates and joyous family meals. In Peru, children often give their mums handmade items, which are reciprocated (lucky them!).
Peru’s indigenous Andean population, also celebrates the gifts of Mother Earth, or Pachamama, in early August. Pachamama is an ancient mythological goddess beloved by many indigenous Andean populations. Mythology cites Pachamama as the cause of earthquakes and bringer of fertility. Her special worship day is called Martes de Challa.
However you choose to celebrate Mother’s Day, I hope it’s a good day for you x