The History of Mother’s Day

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The History of Mother's Day

Whether you get your Mom flowers, chocolates or a card wishing her a happy day, what was the catalyst that got this holiday started?

Hallmark Corporation states that Mother’s day is the second largest gift giving holiday in our country next to Christmas and the third for sending cards. Was it Mother Earth, Mother Nature or some other female ideal that originated the Mother’s Day celebration? Some think the idea was dreamed up by the greeting card companies to sell cards and boost revenue. A little research details the history of the holiday set aside to honor she who gave us life.

Ancient People Celebrated Mothers

The ritual of celebrating motherhood dates back thousands of years to ancient Greece where according to THEOI Greek Mythology the mother of the gods, Rhea, was known as the great mother. Her name means “flow” signifying the flow of menstruation, birth liquid and milk. Legend has it, Rhea is married to Kronos (Time) is known as the Goddess of Heaven and is the mother of Zeus. Most ancient Greeks would celebrate by offerings of honey cakes and fine drinks to the goddess. Zealot groups of followers played drums, cymbals, horns, and dressed in full armor to perform “orgiastic dances”; not exactly how we think of Mother’s Day celebrations today.

Ancient Romans also celebrated the “Great Mother” with a temple in her honor and a festival in March each year. They brought gifts to the matron of earth during the Festival of Hilaria which is also thought to be indicative of Spring Equinox.

England Celebrated Mother’s Day

“Mothering Sunday” was celebrated in the 1600’s as a way to honor the mothers of England. Poor families were separated often working as servants for wealthy people far from home. Once a year on “Mothering Sunday”, servants were given the day off to return home. They spent the day with their mothers eating “mothering cake” baked specifically for the occasion.

Modern Holiday Beginnings

In 1872, Julia Ward Howe suggested Mother’s Day to be a celebration of peace. A suffragist, writer and author of the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Howe appealed to women whose husbands or sons were at war believing that these mothers had a strong appetite for peace. Though her holiday idea never caught on, Howe went on to lead the American Branch of the Women’s International Peace Association.

The Hallmark Corporation considers the second Sunday in May, 1908. to be the first celebrated Mother’s Day as organized by Anna M. Jarvis on the second anniversary of her mother’s death. Her mother had given birth to 12 children and lost 8 under the age of seven. To battle the childhood mortality rate, Mrs. Jarvis organized women into groups that provided medicine to the poor and nursed the sick. During the Civil War her “Mother’s Friendship Clubs” were instrumental in nursing soldiers from both armies and saving many lives. It was her daughter’s plan to designate a day to honor mothers which became official in 1914.

The Meaning of Mother’s Day Today

Mothers rejoice as their children are born, carefully nurture and fiercely protect them as they grow and build dreams for their future. Mothers will do whatever it takes to give their children every opportunity to have the best life possible. Whatever the history of Mother’s Day, isn’t it nice that we are reminded to take a moment and say thanks once a year.