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The History and Background of Mothers Day Click for GIFT STORE
In the UK Mother’s day is also known as Mothering Sunday and has a very different background to Mother’s Day in the USA as well as a different date.
Historically there have been a number of ceremonies based around the idea of mothers. These may have also contributed to the idea of Mother’s Day. These include the following:
Greek and Roman
The ancient Greeks celebrated the Goddess Rhea wife of Cronus in early spring. There are a number of different mythologies surrounding the Greek Gods, and Rhea was more powerful before the classical (patriarchal) mythology as written. In some accounts she is the mother of the Gods.
In Rome, Cybele the Mother Earth Goddess is considered the Roman equivalent of Rhea. She was celebrated in the Festival of Megalesia (Magna Mater) of Cybele from the 4th to the 10th of April although there also seems to be a connection with the Festival of Hilaria (Festival of Joy) on the 22nd to the 27th of March. This festival though is thought to be the precursor to April Fools Day.
English Mothering Sunday
In the early 16th Century, the Church is believed to have diverted the idea of pagan Mother Earth celebrations to that of the “Mother Church”. Some accounts give the idea of a persons “Mother Church” as the one that the person was baptised in. Others, relate the “Mother Church” as the main church in a district rather then the local or “daughter church”. Which ever, the idea was that every one should return to worship at their Mother Church on the 4th Sunday of Lent. This meant that young Men and Women would return home from where they worked and they would bring a “Mother Cake” with them for their mothers.
In Northen England and Scotland Carling, a type of pancake, was often served and has led to Mothering Sunday being also called Carling Sunday. Other traditional cakes used at this time of year also included Simnel, a rich fruit cake and a dish called Furmety.
Although this holiday had declined in the 19th Century, after the 2nd World War, the influence of US servicemen led to the idea of Mother’s Day becoming more popular again and also encouraged the commercialisation of the day.
Mother’s Day in the USA
In the USA, the source of Mother’s Day can be traced back to West Virginia in 1858. Anna Reeves Jarvis, a local teacher and church worker introduced “Mothers’ Work Day” to encourage better sanitation in her town.
Later, in 1870, Julia Ward Howard, after seeing the horrors of the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian war, tried to introduce a Mother’s Day Peace Proclamation to the international Peace conferences in London and Paris.
By 1872 she had modified her aims and promoted the idea of a Mother’s Day for Peace on the 2nd of June. Although this day was celebrated in Boston for a number of years following this, but the idea faded.
The daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis, also called Anna, was later the prime mover behind the adoption of Mother’s Day. In 1905, she dedicated her life to this goal at her mothers grave. The aim of the day was to honour mothers both living and dead.
In the following years, much effort managed to establish Mother’s Day first in West Virginia and later across the USA and Canada. In 1912 West Virgina was the first state to adopt an official Mother’s Day. This was followed in 1914 by the adoption of Mother’s Day in the USA. Anna Jarvis fiercely fought against the over commercialisation of Mother’s Day saying that it should be a day of thought not profit. She also believed that cards were a lazy way of writing a letter. She died in 1948, blind and penniless. She never had children of her own and was buried next to her mother in a cemetery in the Philadelphia area.
Carnations and Mother’s Day
Anna Jarvis at the first Church Service introduced the use of Carnations at Mother’s Day in 1908. Later this lead to an argument between Anna and the florist industry concerning what she saw as the over commercialisation of the idea. One last irony, was that the Florist Exchange is said to have paid Anna’s unpaid nursing home bills after she died.
White Carnations are used to honour deceased mothers, and pink (nowadays often red) for living mothers.
Mother’s Day across the World
The UK and Ireland is the 4th Sunday of Lent.
The 2nd Sunday of May is Mother's Day in the USA. This date has also been adopted by a number of other countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Netherlands and Turkey and many other countries.
Spain and Portugal hold their Mother's Day on the 8th of December.
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