The Origin And History Of Mother's Day

Copyright © 2007-2008 Wesley Berry, AAF

The origin and history of Mother's Day goes back to the era of the ancient Greeks and Romans. But the roots of Mother's Day history can also be traced in the United Kingdom where a Mothering Sunday was celebrated much before the festival saw the light of day in the United States. However, the celebration of the festival as it is seen today is a recent phenomenon and not even a hundred years old. It is thanks to the hard work of pioneering women of their times, Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis, that the day came into existence. Today the festival of Mother's Day is celebrated across 46 countries (though on different dates) and is a hugely popular affair. Millions of people across the globe take the day as an opportunity to honor their mothers, thank them for their efforts in giving them life, raising them and being their constant supporter and well-wisher.

The earliest history of Mother's Day dates back to the ancient annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to maternal goddesses. The Greeks used the occasion to honor Rhea, wife of Cronus and the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.

Ancient Romans, too, celebrated a spring festival, called Hilaria. It was dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. It may be noted that ceremonies in honor of Cybele began some 250 years before Christ was born. The celebration, made on the Ides of March by making offerings in the temple of Cybele, lasted for three days and included parades, games and masquerades. The celebrations were notorious enough that followers of Cybele were banished from Rome.

Early Christians celebrated a Mother's Day of sorts during the festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent, in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ. In England, the holiday was expanded to include all mothers. It was then called "Mothering Sunday".

The more recent history of Mother's Day dates back to the 1600's in England. Here, a "Mothering Sunday" was celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter) to honor mothers. After a prayer service in the church to honor the Virgin Mary, children brought gifts and flowers to pay tribute to their own mothers.

On the occasion, servants, apprentices and other employees staying away from their homes were encouraged to visit their mothers and honor them. Traditionally, children brought with them gifts and a special cake or fruit-filled pastry called a simnel.

The custom of Mothering Sunday died out almost completely by the 19th century. However, the day came to be celebrated again after World War II, when American servicemen brought the custom home and commercial enterprises used it as an occasion for sales.

The idea of the official celebration of Mother's Day in the United States was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872. An activist, writer and poet, Julia shot to fame with her famous Civil War song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Julia Ward Howe suggested that June 2nd be annually celebrated as Mother's Day and should be dedicated to peace. She wrote a passionate appeal to women and urged them to rise against war in her famous " Mother's Day Proclamation", written in Boston in 1870. Her idea spread but was later replaced by the Mother's Day holiday now celebrated in May.

Anna Jarvis is recognized as the Founder of Mother's Day in the United States. Though Anna Jarvis never had children, she is also known as the Mother of Mother's Day, an apt title for the lady who worked hard to bestow honor on all mothers.

Anna Jarvis got the inspiration of celebrating Mother's Day from her own mother, Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, in her childhood. An activist and social worker, Mrs. Jarvis used to express her desire that someday someone must honor all mothers, living and deceased, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them.

A loving daughter, Anna never forgot her mothers words and when her mother died in 1905, she resolved to fulfill her mothers desire of having a mothers day. The growing negligent attitude of adult Americans towards their mothers, and a desire to honor her own mother, spurred her ambitions.

The tradition of gifting carnations on Mother's Day began on the first official Mother's Day service on May 10, 1908. Miss Anna Jarvis sent 500 white carnations to the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, in Grafton, West Virginia, to honor her mother. The flowers were meant to be distributed amongst the mothers. Others present in the mass were also asked to wear flowers. White carnations were a favorite of Miss Anna Jarvis's mother, Mrs. Anna Marie Jarvis. Miss Anna Jarvis explained the reason for her selection of white carnations as the flower to honor her mother, this way:

''The white carnation is preferred because it may be thought to typify some of the virtues of motherhood...whiteness stands for purity; its lasting qualities, faithfulness; its fragrance, love; its wide field of growth, charity; its form, beauty..."

Miss Anna Jarvis continued with the tradition of sending carnations to the Andrews Church. She sent over 10,000 carnations in the subsequent years as a personal gift to the church on Mother's Day. This gradually led to a custom of giving carnations to mothers. Today, carnations are worn and gifted worldwide on Mother's Day and have become symbolic of the purity, strength and endurance of motherhood. As a custom, red carnations are worn to honor living mothers, and white carnations are worn for the deceased mothers.

If you think Mother's Day has become too commercialized, you're not alone. Anna Jarvis, the person who did the most to make Mother's Day a national holiday, thought so too. She considered the printed greeting card "a poor excuse for the letter you are too lazy to write" and in fact ended up spending her inheritance campaigning against the holiday she had helped to popularize!

Nonetheless, retailers report that Mother's Day is the second highest gift giving holiday in the United States (Christmas is the highest). And since May14th is right around the corner, it's time to place your flower order!

Mother's Day is the biggest floral sales day of the year. Making sure you order your flowers early from your favorite florist, will help to ensure you get exactly the flowers and container that will suit your special mother.

There will be many beautiful keepsake vases and arrangements available. To make sure your mom gets her gift by Mother's Day consider having it delivered on Friday or Saturday. Not only does this help your frantically working florist and their delivery staff, but it gives you more time to re-deliver before Mother's Day if no one is home on the first attempt to deliver. To make your flowers even more special send along a poem or short essay that tells mom how wonderful she really is! Have a great Mother's Day!

About The Author:

Wesley Berry is member of the American Academy of Floriculture (AAF) and President of Wesley Berry Flowers, a successful multi-million dollar floral business that was established in 1946. He also works with to provide useful information about funeral homes across the nation. He has been recognized by florists nationwide as a leader in the flower business. Visit Wesley Berry Flowers on the web at

Article Source: thePhantomWriters Article Submission Service


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