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 India there’s an entire festival
In India, Hindus have long celebrated a ten-day festival in October honoring their Divine Mother, Durga. A westernized version of Mother’s Day is officially observed on May 10.
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.
Mother’s Day flowers are classic for a reason
In the U.S., flowers and flowering plants are always a welcome Mother’s Day gift. Favorite bouquets include lilies, orchards, tulips, roses, irises and callas, with pink being the traditional color. Popular plants include hydrangeas, azaleas, chrysanthemums and blooming kalanchoe plants. Here are some staggering stats:
- 25% of all holiday flower and plant purchases are made for Mother’s Day.
- 25% of adults in the United States buy flowers as Mother’s Day gifts.
- 63% of all floral and plant gifts purchased for Mother’s Day gifts are fresh flowers; the remainder are plants and houseplants.
- 58% of the flowers purchased for Mother’s Day were bought as gifts for mothers, with the remainder being purchased for wives (28%) and mothers-in-law (17%).
Women are waiting longer to become moms
In 2000, the average age of first-time-moms in the U.S. was 24.9 years old. In 2014, the average age increased to 26.3. If you know a new mom-to-be, you may want to tell her not to register for these useless baby gifts. She may consider that word to the wise an early Mother’s Day gift!
Moms really, really deserve a celebration day
Mother’s Day is more than just a “Hallmark holiday,” but an acknowledgment of all moms do. Consider that by a baby’s second birthday, its diaper will have been changed approximately 7,300 times. Each diaper change by mom takes approximately two minutes (whereas each diaper change by dad takes about one and a half minutes). Preschool-age children demand mom’s attention approximately 210 times per day (or every four minutes). Moms of preschool-age children spend approximately three hours per day on childcare and approximately two hours on household chores. A full 88% of all laundry is done by moms, totally 330 loads and 5,300 articles of clothing per year. Nevertheless, 72% of moms with children over 1-year old work, and 55% of moms with a child under 1-year old work. For moms who work, the workday plus childcare and chore time equals, on average, a 13-hour day. If you’re celebrating a working mom on Mother’s Day, one of the very best gifts you can give is to never say these things.
Motherhood builds a mom’s brain
Most people know that pregnancy causes changes in skin and hair, but did you know it may also cause permanent brain changes? According to a 2011 study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, those changes include a significant increase in gray matter in the parts of the brain responsible for sensory perception, reasoning and judgment. It’s believed these changes may play a role in shaping maternal behavior and motivation and in the development of higher cognitive function.
Here’s one mom who must have some pretty amazing cognitive function
The most prolific mom in the world is Valentina Vassilyev, of Russia, who gave birth to 69 children from 1725 to 1765, including 16 pairs of twins, 10 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quadruplets. One would hope that if Vassilyev didn’t see some improved brain function out of the deal, she at least had a sense of humor about motherhood.
For some moms it’s never too late
The oldest mother on record is a 70-year old woman in India who gave birth to a son on April 19, 2016. The baby was the first for the woman and her 79-year-old husband, after nearly five decades of marriage. It should be noted that this story is anything but typical and shouldn’t give rise unrealistic expectations. Many doctors and fertility experts have expressed ethical concerns about a woman of 70 undergoing the array of fertility treatments that such a pregnancy required.
No matter where you go, we call her “Mama” (or something pretty close)
Babies in virtually every country on the planet speak the word “mama,” and almost every language in almost every country has some recognizable form of the word. “Grandmother,” however, is a different story. Here’s what grandparents around the world are called.
Some mom celebrations are simply over the top
Don’t you love it when actors thank mom for supporting the difficult journey that is an acting career by inviting her to attend the Oscars? What a wonderful way to celebrate mom. Here are some actors who did just that: Dev Patel, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Charlize Theron, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck. Bet you forgot these movies won Oscars.
Fun facts about our “mother” tongue
There are 48 words in the English language that contain the word “mother,” and you can see the complete list here.” Some are lovely words, like “motherhood” and “motherly.” Some are, shall we say, less lovely, like “chemotherapy” and “smothering.” And some can’t even be printed here. For extra credit, you can tell your mom that the word “motherlode,” which means an abundant source of supply, has its origins in 19th century mining camps but is, in fact, an homage to the abundant source of love that has been ascribed to mothers.