History of Mother’s Day: different origins and dates

History of Mother’s Day

Different origins and different dates

Flowers for mom on Mothers Day 2013Mother’s Day is a worldwide phenomenon that is celebrated around the globe. In the USA it is an annual holiday celebrated on the second Sunday in May. 

This is the time of year when we try to find presents for Mom to show our appreciation for all that she’s done. Usually we end up buying a small item of jewelry, perfume or that old standby – flowers. Maybe this year we can be a little bit more creative in our thinking. See our list of 20 things to do with Mom for Mother’s Day 2013.

The history of Mother’s Day stretches back some 100 years in the USA but much further back in other cultures.   As an annual celebration, Mother’s Day recognizes the role of Mothers and Motherhood and the positive contribution that mothers make to society. Although often criticized for being too commercial, Mother’s Day gives us the opportunity – at least once every year – to say thankyou to our mothers for everything they have done … and in fact for being just mothers.

Although Mother’s Day is recognized around the world, many people are unaware that these Mother’s Day celebrations owe their origins to different traditions. For example, the commercial festival that we are familiar with in the USA is a fairly recent invention and was created in the early part of the last Century.

MoM with flowersThe national holiday that is Mother’s Day is the result of the activities of two women, Julia Ward Howard and Anna Jarvis.

The first National Mother’s Day was officially celebrated in the USA in 1914. Previous attempts at establishing Mother’s Day in the United States sought to promote a day of peace by honoring mothers who had lost or were at risk of losing their sons to war In other countries. These attempts came to nothing but helped set the scene for Anna Jarvis, who managed to persuade her local townspeople, then her home state of Pennsylvania and then finally the whole country to establish a national holiday on Mother’s Day.

The different traditions underlying the concept of Mother’s Day have resulted in different dates for the celebration of mothers throughout the world.  Dates for Mothers Day vary considerably: the religious festival of Mothering Sunday in the UK is celebrated during the month of March; in Russia Mother’s Day is celebrated in November.  The history of Mothers Day has interesting and varied origins for different parts of the world.  

Mothers Day in the USA

Boy giving flowers to momIt must be acknowledged that Mothers Day in the USA has been a major influence on the rest of the world.  More than 60 countries now celebrate Mothers Day on the same date as the USA; these include: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, South Africa and many parts of Europe. 

Mothers Day has become a special day for children to present flowers and other mothers day presents to their moms and for families to get together.  In a country with so many diverse cultures and festivals, Mothers Day is a time that we can all identify and share with; there is no-one more special and deserving than a loving mom.  

Other Religious connections to Mothers Day 

Religious mother and childIn the Roman Catholic Church the celebration of Mothers Day is strongly associated with the Virgin Mary. In many Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a special prayer service is held in honor of the Virgin Mary.

The Hindu Mother’s Day festival is called “Mata Tirtha Aunshi” or the  “Mother Pilgrimage fortnight” and is celebrated in countries such as India and Nepal.

The holiday is observed on the new moon day in the month of April or May and has a much longer history than the Westernised festival of Mothers Day.

Spring Festival connections to Mothers Day 

Mother’s Day in most Arab countries is celebrated on 21 March – this is also the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.  

The motivation behind a national Mothers Day in the arab world originated from the Egyptian journalist Mustafa Amin hearing about a mother who had devoted her whole life to helping her son become a doctor, but received no gratitude from him for her sacrifice.  The story inspired Mustafa Amin to promote Mothers Day as an annual celebration of Mothers.  The first Mothers Day was celebrated on 21st March 1956 and has been followed by many Arab countries since that time. 

The first Mothers Day in the year – Norway 

The first Mothers Day to be celebrated each year is in Norway; this occurs in the second Sunday of February.  Set up as a National holiday in the early 20th century by Karen Platou  -the first woman to be elected as a member of the Norwegian parliament – and the feminist, Dorothea Schjoldager, the celebration of Mothers Day is similar to those of other countries with children presenting their mothers with flowers and other gifts.  Celebratory foods are also made and cakes, such as the Norwegian Blotkake are very popular for Mothers Day. See our Mother’s Day cake recipes.   

Mothers Day later in the Year 

Although the majority of Mothers Day celebrations take place in March and in particular during the month of May, there are a number of countries who celebrate the day during the summer and later in the year.  These include Mongolia, Luxembourg and Kenya in June, Thailand in August and Argentina, Indonesia, Iran, Malawi, Panama and Russia towards the end of the year. 

Other Celebrations connected to the History of Mothers Day 

Whilst many countries now celebrate Mothers Day, some others celebrate mothers as part of a much broader event.  Such alternative days include: Parents Day in Albania and South Korea, Mother and Chidren’s Day in Mondgolia, Family Day in Israel and International Women’s Day in Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Guyana, Italy, Macedonia and the Ukraine. 

Mothers Day in the USA : a Brief History

Mothers Day this year May 12th 2013

The instigation and celebration of Mothers Day in the USA has had a major impact throughout the world.   Whilst the Mother’s Day festivals in countries such as Britain have their origins going back into ancient pagan and early Christian festivals, the History of Mothers Day in the USA is a much more recent.   

There are two important women who can be seen as the main instigators for the celebration of Mothers Day: Julia Ward Howe, the feminist and reformist during the early 19th century and Anna Jarvis with her campaigning work to honor mothers, during the early 20th century. 

Julia Ward Howe:

Julia Ward HoweRenown for her lyrics for the Civil War song “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, Julia Ward Howe was also an activist for the liberation of women from the restrictions of their homes. 

Born in 1819, she was for her time, a remarkable woman for her literary accomplishments as well as her skill as a powerful orator. She widely championed the cause for her Mothers’ Peace Day to become an official holiday and celebration of Mothers Day.  However, it was not until the later campaigning work of Anna Jarvis that a national holiday and date was finally agreed. 

Anna Jarvis:

Although she never became a mother herself, Anna Jarvis’s determination to honor mothers on behalf of her own mother’s memory, led to the establishment of a National Mothers Day in 1914.  

For more information on the History of Mother’s Day in the USA…..

Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) in the UK

Mothers Day this year: March 10th 2013.

Mothers Day in the UK has its roots going back into ancient times with connections to both the pagan Roman Spring Festivals and the Early Christian celebrations in honor of the Virgin Mary.  

The earliest history of Mothers Day in the UK is through the influence of the Romans festival of Hilaria that was dedicated to a mother goddess called Cybele.  With the Roman invasion of Great Britain, the festival became one of many pagan festivals celebrated in those early times before the birth of Christ.  

Due to the influence of the early Christians, a religious festival celebrating the Virgin Mary eventually superceded the pagan mother goddess festival.   Designated to be celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, the religious event was later extended to include all mothers, as well as the Virgin Mary and the name Mothering Sunday was born.  For more information on Mothering Sunday in the UK…..

Mothers Day – a worldwide celebration 

The history of Mothers Day has a diverse range of origins and people who have all played their part in instigating national celebration of motherhood.  The dates for celebrating mothers may vary throughout the world but many of the sentiments and forms of honouring mothers with flowers and gifts remain the same.  

Traditions on this day include family gatherings, churchgoing, family dinners, the giving of gifts – particularly flowers and jewelry.

The holiday has been heavily commercialized by advertisers and retailers and this has drawn a lot of criticism from all quarters.

Nevertheless, Mother’s Day is now one of the most commercially successful American occasions, having become the most popular day of the year (in the US) to dine out at a restaurant. It generates a significant portion of the U.S. jewelry industry’s annual revenue, from custom gifts like mother’s rings and pendants and Americans spend approximately $2.6 billion on flowers each year with another $1.53 billion spent on pampering gifts—like spa treatments—and another $68 million on greeting cards.

The giving of gifts on Mother’s Day is now well established and, although we suggest elsewhere some things you might like to do with your mother on Mother’s Day, none of can get away from the fact that a greetings card and an appropriate present have become expected. We have therefore put together some ideas that you might like to consider – good gifts for Mom on Mother’s Day. Of course being a jewelry site, our main emphasis is on jewelry – but there are many other things you can do with your mother to show her just how much you care.

So, go on be creative ….. and if you can’t come up with any different ideas, you can always feel comfortable that a small item of jewelry – possibly incorporating your mother’s birthstone – will always be appreciated.



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