19 Surprising Facts You Never Knew About Mother’s Day
From wonderful to downright weird, here’s a look at why and how the world celebrates moms.
It’s not just a “Hallmark Holiday”
Hallmark produced its first Mother’s Day card in the early 1920s, but Mother’s Day had already been proclaimed a national holiday six years earlier in 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation naming the second Sunday of May as a day for “public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” Today cards have become almost a given on Mother’s Day. To make yours special, consider adding one of these great Mother’s Day quotes.
Mother’s Day started as Mothers’ Friendship Day
The origins of Mother’s Day in the United States actually dates back even earlier to 1868, when Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” to promote reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers following the Civil War.
Then it was called Mother’s Peace Day
Two years later in 1870, abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” calling for mothers to unite in promoting world peace. She later campaigned for “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every year on June 2.
The founder of Mother’s Day wasn’t a mom
Anna M. Jarvis is widely credited with having founded Mother’s Day as a United States holiday. Jarvis never married and did not have children, but organized the first Mother’s Day observance in May of 1908 in memory of her mother’s death two years before. She later campaigned for the second Sunday in May to be designated a national celebration of mothers. Did you know that May is a popular month for national observances? Some of them are even a bit weird and wacky.
But she didn’t really think of it first
Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but the closest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is “Mothering Sunday”, an early Christian festival popular in Europe that was timed to coincide with the fourth Sunday of Lent.
The founder of Mother’s Day ultimately wanted to abolish it
As Mother’s Day became increasingly commercialized, its founder Anna Jarvis spoke out against that aspect and ultimately fought to abolish Mother’s Day altogether. “To have Mother’s Day the burdensome, wasteful, expensive gift day that Christmas and other special days have become, is not our pleasure,” she wrote in the 1920s. “If the American people are not willing to protect Mother’s Day from the hordes of money schemers that would overwhelm it with their schemes, then we shall cease having a Mother’s Day—and we know how.” Anna Jarvis battled the commercialization of Mother’s Day to her death. Sadly, she died penniless, with her mental health in question. Perhaps if she were around today, the upcycling of old greeting cards would appeal to her frugality. She’d certainly be surprised by some of these new uses for old greeting cards.
Celebrating moms around the world
Mother’s Day, or some form of it, is celebrated internationally, albeit not on the same day or in the same way. The first celebrations in France in 1918 actually commended women for “re-populating” France, and mothers of four or more children were awarded a medal. Gold medals went to mothers of eight or more! Today French mothers, like those in the U.S., are more likely to receive flowers, food, or a Mother’s Day gift.
In Ethiopia it’s tied to the end of the rainy season
In Ethiopia, Mother’s Day (or “Antrosht, as it’s called there) is a three-day celebration that occurs at the end of the rainy season. The family celebrates by preparing a traditional meal, after which mothers and daughters anoint themselves with butter and dance while the men sing songs that honor the family.
In some countries moms ply their children with treats
One of the more unusual Mother’s Day celebrations is observed in December in what was formerly Yugoslavia. There, children sneak into their parents bedroom the morning of Mother’s Day and tie mom up! The only way to free herself is for mom to present her children with gifts and treats.