8 Moving Mother’s Day Traditions from Around the World
Flowers, cards, and brunch are the pillars of many American families’ moms’ day. If you’re looking to go the extra mile this year for the mother in your life, get inspired by these truly touching customs from around the globe.
Nepal: Wading in a sacred pond
On the equivalent of Mother’s Day, known as Mata Tirtha Aunsi, Nepali whose mothers have passed away gather in a sacred celebration to honor their memories. Huge crowds flock to a large village in Kathmandu each year to wade into the famous Matatritha pond—this rite is said to bring peace to the atman—soul or essence—of their departed Hindu mothers. Find out more about the surprising history of Mother’s Day.
Mexico: A sweet serenade
Singing to your much-loved mom is a widespread Dia de Las Madres tradition south of the border. Often, children join mariachi bands to belt songs like “Las Mañanitas” (Awaken, my dear, awaken/and see that the day has dawned/now the little birds are singing/and the moon has set) and “Amor de Madre” (A Mother’s Love). In rural areas, these serenades may take place right outside a mother’s own home; elsewhere, mariachis sing to moms in restaurants or parties. Some Mexican-American families carry on these Mother’s Day traditions, Dan Sheehy, director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (and mariachi band member!) told NPR, “It’s very popular in the United States. People generally charge by the hour, so there are mariachis you hire for an hour. They show up at Mom’s house and play the songs that they want to hear.”
United Kingdom: Traditional treats
“Mothering Sunday”—commonly called Mother’s Day in the UK—is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, during the lead-up to Easter. In a tradition that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, some British families serve Simnel cake as a treat for their mothers at the end of a Lenten fast. The dense dessert stuffed with fruits and topped with marzipan started out as a bread, Neil Buttery, a food historian and chef in Manchester, writes on his blog, British Food: A History. “What made it special is that it [was] made out of the highest quality flour possible; simnel derives from the Latin simila—the whitest and finest of flours.” Our mums deserve only the best, since medieval times! These Mother Day quotes will show mom how much you really care.
Israel: Honoring all kinds of families
In the 1980s, Israel changed the country’s Mother’s Day to Family Day. Why? To honor “the variety of configurations of the nuclear family. All combinations are welcomed with love: children with two mothers, or two fathers, or single-parent families—all are part of the celebration,” the Ministry of Education explains.
Peru: Remembering the past
Cards, gifts, and flowers are a part of Peruvian celebrations, as they are in so many other Mother’s Day traditions around the world. But celebrants in Peru also make a special effort to remember mothers who are no longer with them. Families often gather at cemeteries to lay fresh flowers at mothers’ graves and share some celebratory drinks and food in their honor. You probably never knew these things about Mother’s Day.
Thailand: A heartfelt ceremony
Mother’s Day in Thailand is a special event in schools all across the country. Mothers come to their children’s campuses and the students perform a ceremony meant to show their love and respect. At one particularly touching moment, the kids even kneel at their mothers’ feet in gratitude for all they do. We’re tearing up just picturing it.
France: Waxing poetic
Many teachers in France help their students memorize poems to recite to their moms on Mother’s Day. One such poem is “I Wish You…” by French children’s writer Pierre Gamarra. The first verse can be roughly translated to “I wish you a day of velvet/irises, lilies and periwinkles/a day of leaves and branches/ a day and then another day.” Beautiful.
Flowers are universal
Flowers are one of the most widespread Mother’s Day traditions around the globe. But some cultures favor certain blooms over others. In Thailand, it’s jasmine, a symbol of purity and unconditional love. Lilies, a classic symbol of springtime, are hugely popular in France. Japanese mothers often receive carnations, sturdy flowers that highlight moms’ strength. Carnations, especially white ones, are traditional Mother’s Day bouquets in the United States, too. Anna Jarvis, who’s generally considered the founder of the American holiday in the early 1900s, chose carnations as the official Mother’s Day bloom. Not only were they her mom’s favorite, “the carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying,” she said at the time. If you’re not sure what to get your mom this year, check out these more meaningful Mother’s Day gift ideas.