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For most of us in Australia, Mother’s Day swings around each year and we celebrate how much our mum’s mean to us with gifts and thoughtful actions to make her feel special. But has anyone wondered how, when and why it actually first began being celebrated? What is the actual history of Mothers Day?
It turns out Mother’s Day has different ‘origins’ in different cultures around the world. Thanks to a little Wikipedia research, we’ve discovered some interesting snippets about the history of Mothers Day around the world. It’s really quite fascinating!
Mother’s Day in most Arab countries is celebrated on 21 March, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. It was introduced in Egypt by journalist Mustafa Amin in his book Smiling America (1943). The idea was overlooked at the time. Later Amin heard the story of a widowed mother who devoted her whole life to raising her son until he became a doctor. The son then married and left without showing any gratitude to his mother. Hearing this, Amin became motivated to promote “Mother’s Day”. The idea was first ridiculed by president Gamal Abdel Nasser but he eventually accepted it and Mother’s Day was first celebrated on 21 March 1956. The practice has since been copied by other Arab countries.
When Mustafa Amin was arrested and imprisoned, there were attempts to change the name of the holiday from “Mother’s Day” to “Family Day” as the government wished to prevent the occasion from reminding people of its founder. These attempts were unsuccessful and celebrations continued to be held on that day; classic songs celebrating mothers remain famous to this day.
The tradition of giving gifts to mothers on Mother’s Day in Australia was started by Mrs Janet Heyden in 1924. She began the tradition during a visit to a patient at the Newington State Home for Women, where she met many lonely and forgotten mothers. To cheer them up, she rounded up support from local school children and businesses to donate and bring gifts to the women. Every year thereafter, Mrs Heyden raised increasing support for the project from local businesses and even the local Mayor. The day has since become commercialised. Traditionally, the chrysanthemum is given to mothers for Mother’s Day as the flower is naturally in season during May (autumn in Australia) and ends in “mum”, a common affectionate shortening of “mother” in Australia.
In Bangladesh, observance of Mother’s Day includes discussion programs organized by government and non-governmental organizations. Reception programs and cultural programs are organized to mark the day in the capital city. Television channels air special programs, and newspapers publish special features and columns to mark the day. Greeting cards, flowers and gifts featuring mothers are in high demand at the shops and markets.
In the week before Mother’s Day, children make little presents at primary school, which they give to their mothers in the early morning of Mother’s Day. Typically, the father will buy croissants and other sweet breads and pastries and bring these to the mother while she is still in bed – the beginning of a day of pampering for the mother.
Mother’s Day or El Día de la Madre Boliviana is celebrated on 27 May and was passed into law on 8 November 1927, during the presidency of Hernando Siles Reyes. The date commemorates the Battle of La Coronilla, which took place on 27 May 1812, during the Bolivian War of Independence, in what is now the city of Cochabamba. In this battle, women fighting for the country’s independence were slaughtered by the Spanish army. It is mainly by schools that hold activities and festivities throughout the day.
In Bulgaria 8 March is associated with International Women’s Day. The holiday honours women as human beings and equal partners.
Mother’s Day is becoming more popular in China. Carnations are a very popular Mother’s Day gift and the most sold flowers in relation to the day. In 1997 Mother’s Day was set as the day to help poor mothers and to remind people of the poor mothers in rural areas such as China’s western region. 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 recent years, the Communist Party member Li Hanqiu began to advocate for the official adoption of Mother’s Day in memory of Meng Mu, the mother of Mèng Zǐ. He formed a non-governmental organization called Chinese Mothers’ Festival Promotion Society, with the support of 100 Confucian scholars and lecturers of ethics. Li and the Society want to replace the Western-style gift of carnations with lilies which, in ancient times, were planted by Chinese mothers when children left home. Mother’s Day remains an unofficial festival, except in a small number of cities.
In France, amidst alarm at the low birth rate, there were attempts in 1896 and 1904 to create a national celebration honoring the mothers of large families. In 1906 ten mothers who had nine children each were given an award recognising “High Maternal Merit” (“Haut mérite maternel”). American World War I soldiers fighting in France popularized the US Mother’s Day holiday. They sent so much mail back to their country for Mother’s Day that the Union Franco-Américaine created a postal card for that purpose. In 1918, also inspired by Jarvis, the town of Lyon wanted to celebrate a “journée des Mères”, but instead decided to celebrate a “Journée Nationale des Mères de familles nombreuses.” The holiday was more inspired by anti-depopulation efforts than by the US holiday, with medals awarded to the mothers of large families. The French government made the day official in 1920 as a day for mothers of large families. Since then the French government awards the Médaille de la Famille française to mothers of large families.
In 1941, by initiative of Philippe Pétain, the wartime Vichy government used the celebration in support of their policy to encourage larger families, but all mothers were now honored, even mothers with smaller families.
In 1950, after the war, the celebration was reinstated. The law of 24 May 1950 required that the Republic pay official homage to French Mothers on the last Sunday in May as the “Fête des Mères”. During the 1950s, the celebration lost all its patriotic and natalist ideologies, and became heavily commercialized.
In 1956, the celebration was given a budget and integrated into the new Code de l’action sociale et des familles. In 2004 responsibility for the holiday was transferred to the Minister responsible for families.
In the 1920s, Germany had the lowest birthrate in Europe, and the declining trend was continuing. This was attributed to women’s participation in the labor market. At the same time, influential groups in society (politicians of left and right, churchwomen, and feminists) believed that mothers should be honored but could not agree on how to do so. However, all groups strongly agreed on the promotion of the values of motherhood. In 1923, this resulted in the unanimous adoption of Muttertag, the Mother’s Day holiday as imported from America and Norway. The head of the Association of German Florists cited “the inner conflict of our Volk and the loosening of the family” as his reason for introducing the holiday. He expected that the holiday would unite the divided country. In 1925, the Mother’s Day Committee joined the task force for the recovery of the volk, and the holiday stopped depending on commercial interests and began emphasizing the need to increase the population in Germany by promoting motherhood.
The holiday was then seen as a means to encourage women to bear more children, which nationalists saw as a way to rejuvenate the nation. The holiday did not celebrate individual women, but an idealized standard of motherhood. The progressive forces resisted the implementation of the holiday because it was backed by so many conservatives, and because they saw it as a way to eliminate the rights of working women. Die Frau, the newspaper of the Federation of German Women’s Associations, refused to recognize the holiday. Many local authorities adopted their own interpretation of the holiday: it would be a day to support economically larger families or single-mother families. The guidelines for the subsidies had eugenics criteria, but there is no indication that social workers ever implemented them in practice, and subsidies were given preferentially to families in economic need rather than to families with more children or “healthier” children.
With the Nazi party in power during 1933–1945, the situation changed radically. The promotion of Mother’s Day increased in many European countries, including the UK and France. From the position of the German Nazi government, the role of mothers was to give healthy children to the German nation. The Nazi party’s intention was to create a pure “Aryan race” according to nazi eugenics. Among other Mother’s Day ideas, the government promoted the death of a mother’s sons in battle as the highest embodiment of patriotic motherhood.
The Nazis quickly declared Mother’s Day an official holiday and put it under the control of the NSV (National Socialist People’s Welfare Association) and the NSF (National Socialist Women Organization). This created conflicts with other organizations that resented Nazi control of the holiday, including Catholic and Protestant churches and local women’s organizations. Local authorities resisted the guidelines from the Nazi government and continued assigning resources to families who were in economic need, much to the dismay of the Nazi officials.
The holiday is now celebrated on the second Sunday of May, in a manner similar to other nearby European countries.
Indonesian Mother’s Day is celebrated nationally on 22 December. The date was made an official holiday by President Soekarno on the 25th anniversary of the 1928 Indonesian Women Congress. The day originally sought to celebrate the spirit of Indonesian women and to improve the condition of the nation. Today, the meaning of Mother’s Day has changed, and it is celebrated by expressing love and gratitude to mothers. People present gifts to mothers (such as flowers) and hold surprise parties and competitions, which include cooking and kebaya wearing. People also allow mothers a day off from domestic chores.
Indonesia also celebrates the Kartini Day on 21 April, in memory of activist Raden Ajeng Kartini. This is a celebration of the emancipation of women. The observance was instituted at the 1938 Indonesian Women Congress.
During President Suharto’s New Order (1965-1998), government propaganda used Mother’s Day and Kartini Day to inculcate into women the idea that they should be docile and stay at home.
The Jewish population celebrates Mother’s Day on Shevat 30 of the Jewish calendar, which falls between 30 January and 1 March. The celebration was set as the same date that Henrietta Szold died. Henrietta had no biological children, but her organization Youth Aliyah rescued many Jewish children from Nazi Germany and provided for them. She also championed children’s rights. Szold is considered the “mother” of all those children, and that is why her annual remembrance day was set as Mother’s Day. The holiday has evolved over time, becoming a celebration of mutual love inside the family, called Family Day (yom hamishpacha). Mother’s Day is mainly celebrated by children at kindergartens. There are no longer mutual gifts among members of the family, and there is no longer any commercialization of the celebration.
In Japan, Mother’s Day was initially commemorated during the Shōwa period as the birthday of Empress Kōjun (mother of Emperor Akihito) on 6 March. This was established in 1931 when the Imperial Women’s Union was organized. In 1937, the first meeting of “Praise Mothers” was held on 8 May, and in 1949 Japanese society adopted the second Sunday of May as the official date for Mother’s Day in Japan. Currently Mother’s Day in Japan is a rather commercial holiday, and people typically give their mothers gifts of flowers such as red carnations and roses.
In the mid-1930s, the leftist government of Lázaro Cárdenas promoted the holiday as a “patriotic festival”. The Cárdenas government tried to use the holiday as a vehicle for various efforts: to stress the importance of families as the basis for national development; to benefit from the loyalty that Mexicans felt towards their mothers; to introduce new morals to Mexican women; and to reduce the influence that the church and the Catholic right exerted over women. The government sponsored the holiday in the schools. However, ignoring the strict guidelines from the government, theatre plays were filled with religious icons and themes. Consequently, the “national celebrations” became “religious fiestas” despite the efforts of the government.
Soledad Orozco García, the wife of President Manuel Ávila Camacho, promoted the holiday during the 1940s, resulting in an important state-sponsored celebration. The 1942 celebration lasted a full week and included an announcement that all women could reclaim their pawned sewing machines from the Monte de Piedad at no cost.
Due to Orozco’s promotion, the Catholic National Synarchist Union (UNS) took heed of the holiday around 1941. Shop-owner members of the Party of the Mexican Revolution observed a custom allowing women from humble classes to pick a free Mother’s Day gift from a shop to bring home to their families. The Synarchists worried that this promoted both materialism and the idleness of lower classes, and in turn, reinforced the systemic social problems of the country. Currently this holiday practice is viewed as very conservative, but the 1940s’ UNS saw Mother’s Day as part of the larger debate on the modernization that was happening at the time. This economic modernization was inspired by US models and was sponsored by the state. The fact that the holiday was originally imported from the US was seen as evidence of an attempt at imposing capitalism and materialism in Mexican society.
The UNS and the clergy of the city of León interpreted the government’s actions as an effort to secularize the holiday and to promote a more active role for women in society. They concluded that the government’s long-term goal was to cause women to abandon their traditional roles at home in order to spiritually weaken men. They also saw the holiday as an attempt to secularize the cult to the Virgin Mary, inside a larger effort to dechristianize several holidays. The government sought to counter these claims by organizing widespread masses and asking religious women to assist with the state-sponsored events in order to “depaganize” them. The clergy preferred to promote 2 July celebration of the Santísima Virgen de la Luz, the patron of León, Guanajuato, in replacement of Mother’s Day. In 1942, at the same time as Soledad’s greatest celebration of Mother’s Day, the clergy organized the 210th celebration of the Virgin Mary with a large parade in León.
There is a consensus among scholars that the Mexican government abandoned its revolutionary initiatives during the 1940s, including its efforts to influence Mother’s Day. Today the “Día de las Madres” is an unofficial holiday in Mexico held each year on 10 May, because it’s the date when it was first celebrated in Mexico.
In Mexico, to show affection and appreciation to the mother, it is traditional to start the celebration with the famous song “Las Mañanitas”, either a cappella, with the help of a mariachi or a contracted trio. Many families usually gather to celebrate this special day trying to spend as much time as possible with mothers in order to honor them on their day. They are organized to bring some dishes and eat all together or maybe to visit any restaurant. Also, mothers receive flowers, gifts, and multiple stores offer their goods discounted in order to stimulate purchases.
In the Netherlands, Mother’s Day was introduced as early as 1910 by the Dutch branch of the Salvation Army. The Royal Dutch Society for Horticulture and Botany, a group protecting the interest of Dutch florists, worked to promote the holiday; they hoped to emulate the commercial success achieved by American florists. They were imitating the campaign already underway by florists in Germany and Austria, but they were aware that the traditions had originated in the US.
Florists launched a major promotional effort in 1925. This included the publication of a book of articles written by famous intellectuals, radio broadcasts, newspapers ads, and the collaboration of priests and teachers who wanted to promote the celebration for their own reasons. In 1931 the second Sunday of May was adopted as the official celebration date. In the mid-1930s the slogan Moederdag – Bloemendag (Mother’s Day – Flower’s Day) was coined, and the phrase was popular for many years. In the 1930s and 1940’s “Mother’s Day cakes” were given as gifts in hospitals and to the Dutch Queen, who is known as the “mother of the country”. Other trade groups tried to cash in on the holiday and to give new meaning to the holiday in order to promote their own wares as gifts.
Roman Catholic priests complained that the holiday interfered with the honoring of the Virgin Mary, the divine mother, which took place during the whole month of May. In 1926 Mother’s Day was celebrated on 7 July in order to address these complaints. Catholic organizations and priests tried to Christianize the holiday, but those attempts were rendered futile around the 1960s when the church lost influence and the holiday was completely secularized.
In later years, the initial resistance disappeared, and even leftist newspapers stopped their criticism and endorsed Mother’s Day.
In the 1980s, the American origin of the holiday was still not widely known, so feminist groups who opposed the perpetuation of gender roles sometimes claimed that Mother’s Day was invented by Nazis and celebrated on the birthday of Klara Hitler, Hitler’s mother.
In Nepal, there is a festival equivalent to Mother’s Day, called Mata Tirtha Aunsi (“Mother Pilgrimage New Moon”), or Mata Tirtha Puja (“Mother Pilgrimage Worship”). It is celebrated according to the lunar calendar, lasting for 15 days from the full moon to the new moon. This festival is observed to commemorate and honor mothers, and it is celebrated by giving gifts to mothers and remembering mothers who are no more.
To honor mothers who have died, it is the tradition to go on a pilgrimage to the Mata Tirtha ponds, located 6 km to the southwest of downtown Kathmandu. The nearby Mata Tirtha village is named after these ponds. Previously, the tradition was observed primarily by the Newar community and other people living in the Kathmandu Valley. Now this festival is widely celebrated across the country.
Many tragic folklore legends have been created, suggesting different reasons why this pond became a pilgrimage site. The most popular version says that, in ancient times, the mother of a shepherd died, and he made offerings to a nearby pond. There he saw the face of his mother in the water, with her hand taking the offerings. Since then, many people visited the pond, hoping to see their deceased mother’s face. Pilgrims believe that they will bring peace to their mother’s souls by visiting the sacred place. There are two ponds. The larger one is for ritual bathing. The smaller one is used to “look upon mother’s face”, and it’s fenced by iron bars to prevent people from bathing on it.
Traditionally, in the Katmandu valley the South-Western corner is reserved for women and women-related rituals, and the North-Eastern is for men and men-related rituals. The worship place for Mata Tirtha Aunsi is located in Mata Tirtha in the South-Western half of the valley, while the worship place for Gokarna Aunsi, the equivalent celebration for deceased fathers, is located in Gokarna, Nepal, in the North-Eastern half. This division is reflected in many aspects of the life in Katmandu valley.
Mother’s Day is known as Aama ko Mukh Herne Din in Nepali, which literally means “day to see mother’s face”. In Nepal Bhasa, the festival is known as Mām yā Khwā Swayegu, which can be translated as “to look upon mother’s face”.
In Taiwan, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of the month of May, coinciding with Buddha’s birthday and the traditional ceremony of “washing the Buddha”. In 1999 the Taiwanese government established the second Sunday of May as Buddha’s birthday, so they would be celebrated in the same day. Since 2006, the Tzu Chi, the largest charity organization in Taiwan, celebrates the Tzu Chi Day, Mother’s Day and Buddha’s birthday all together, as part of a unified celebration and religious observance.
Mother’s day in Thailand is celebrated on the birthday of the Queen of Thailand, Queen Sirikit (12 August). The holiday was first celebrated around the 1980s as part of the campaign by the Prime Minister of Thailand Prem Tinsulanonda to promote Thailand’s Royal family. Father’s Day is celebrated on the King’s birthday.
The United Kingdom celebrates Mothering Sunday, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This holiday has its roots in the church and was originally unrelated to the American holiday. Most historians believe that Mothering Sunday evolved from the 16th-century Christian practice of visiting one’s mother church annually on Laetare Sunday.] 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. Commercialization and secularization further eroded the concept, and most people now see the holiday only as a day to make a gift to their mothers. The holiday is still recognized in the original historical sense by many churches, with attention paid to Mary the mother of Jesus Christ and the concept of the Mother Church.
The custom was still popular by the start of the 19th century, but with the Industrial Revolution, traditions changed and the Mothering Day customs declined. However, US World War II soldiers brought the US Mother’s Day celebration to the UK, and the holiday was merged with the Mothering Sunday traditions still celebrated in the Church of England. By the 1950s, the celebration became popular again in the whole of the UK, thanks to the efforts of UK merchants, who saw in the festival a great commercial opportunity. People from UK started celebrating Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday of Lent, the same day on which Mothering Sunday had been celebrated for centuries. Some Mothering Sunday traditions were revived, such as the tradition of eating cake on that day, although celebrants now eat simnel cake instead of the cakes that were traditionally prepared at that time. The traditions of the two holidays are now mixed together and celebrated on the same day, although many people are not aware that the festivities have quite separate origins.
For many people in the United Kingdom, Mother’s Day is now the time of year to celebrate and buy gifts of chocolate or flowers for their mothers as a way to thank them for all they do throughout the year.
Due to the campaign efforts of Anna Jarvis, several states officially recognized Mother’s Day, the first in 1910 being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothe
Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day she soon became resentful of the commercialization and was angry that companies would profit from the holiday. By the early 1920’s, Hallmark and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis became so embittered by what she saw as misinterpretation and exploitation that she protested and even tried to rescind Mother’s Day. The holiday that she had worked so hard for was supposed to be about sentiment, not about profit The original intention was to appreciate and honor mothers by writing a personal letter, by hand, expressing love and gratitude; it wasn’t to buy gifts and pre-made cards. Jarvis organized boycotts and threatened lawsuits to try to stop the commercialization. She crashed a candymakers’ convention in Philadelphia in 1923. Two years later she protested at a confab of the American War Mothers, which raised money by selling carnations, the flower associated with Mother’s Day, and was arrested for disturbing the peac Jarvis died bitter, alone and childless, hating the modern shape of the holiday.
In the United States, Mother’s Day remains one of the biggest days for sales of flowers, greeting cards, and the like.]Moreover, churchgoing is also popular on Mother’s Day, yielding the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter Many worshipers celebrate the day with carnations, coloured if the mother is living and white if she is dead.
So there you have it – the low down on Mother’s Day around the world by Wikipedia. Anyone have anything else to add about their Mother’s Day traditions? What does Mother’s Day mean to you?
Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother’s_Day#Religion
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