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Mother’s Day 2016: History and Traditions From Around The World

( [email protected] ) May 05, 2016 12:42 PM EDT
Mother's Day is celebrated around the world in various ways - however you choose to celebrate, make sure your mother, grandmother or wife knows just how special she is.
Mother's Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mother's Day is one of the most recognized holidays today, and is a special time where people around the world honor their mothers, grandmothers, and wives in various ways.

Mother's Day traditions around the world

In Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, and the United States, Mother's Day is observed on the second weekend in May, and is typically celebrated with flowers, gift-giving, cards, festivities and brunch. In these countries, the day has become highly commercialized, and marketers try to play on the emotional aspect of the day to sell their goods.

In the People's Daily, the Chinese government's official newspaper, an article explained that "despite originating in the United States, people in China accept the holiday without hesitation because it is in line with the country's traditional ethics - respect for the elderly and filial piety towards parents." 

In Mexico, Mother's Day falls on May 10 and is considered a major holiday - the day is also filled with music, food, celebrations, and often a morning serenade of the song "Las Mananitas" from mariachi singers. In Spain, Mother's Day is celebrated on December 8, and includes religious celebrations across the country, as Spaniards pay tribute not only to their own mothers on this day, but also to the Virgin Mary.

Mother's Day in Egypt and several other Arab countries falls on March 21, the first day of spring. The widely observed unofficial national holiday is a day of gift-giving and celebration.

In France, mom's special day is reserved for the last Sunday in the month of May. A family dinner is the norm, and traditionally the mother being honored is presented with a cake that looks like a bouquet of flowers, according to WHSV. In the UK, there is a tradition of making a rich almond cake for mothers called "Mothering Cake" or "Simnel Cake."

Mother's Day History

According to the History Channel, celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.

In the early 1600's, Christians observed a festival known as "Mothering Sunday," which fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent. During this time, the faithful would return to their "mother church"-the main church in the vicinity of their home-for a special service. After attending church, observers would return home and ejoy time with their mothers, often partaking of a special cake, called the mothering cake.

Eventually, the Mothering Sunday tradition became a more secular holiday, and children would present their mothers with flowers and gifts. Over time, the custom faded in popularity before merging with the American Mother's Day in the 1930s and 1940s.

Mother's Day as we know it today was established thanks to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, who, following her mother's 1905 death, conceived of the holiday as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

In May 1908, Jarvis organized the first official Mother's Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. That same day, thousands of people attend a Mother's Day event at one of Wanamaker's retail stores in Philadelphia.

Over the next several years, Jarvis worked to ensure the holiday was added to the national calendar, as she believed that American holidays were biased toward male achievements. She began a letter writing campaign to newspapers and politicians urging the adoption of Mother's Day, and by 1912, many states, towns and churches established the day as an annual holiday. Eventually, Jarvis established the Mother's Day International Association to help promote her cause, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.

However you celebrate Mother's Day, make sure your mother, grandmother, or wife know just how special she is to you!