Mother’s Day: From coast to coast, Americans celebrate Mom

Words for Mother's Day on yellow with flowers

Photo courtesy of Max Pixel

SUNDAY, MAY 13: Say “Thanks!” to Mom, Grandma and any maternal figure in your life today on this, the second Sunday of May—it’s Mother’s Day.

Although motherhood has been celebrated for millennia, the modern American version of Mother’s Day—the one we all know today—began in 1908 with Anna Jarvis. Determined to bring awareness to the vital role of each mother in her family, Jarvis began campaigning for a “Mother’s Day,” and finally was successful in reaching the whole country in 1914. Jarvis’s concept differed considerably from corporate interests in the holiday, however, and the over-commercialization of Mother’s Day was irritating to Jarvis as early as the 1920s. This year, in honor of the Mother’s Day centennial, honor Mom the way Jarvis intended: with a hand-written letter, a visit, a homemade gift or a meal, cooked from scratch.

Pink carnation flowers boquet

Carnations were distributed at the first official Mother’s Day service, in 1908. Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

Though American observances honoring mothers began popping up in the 1870s and 1880s, Jarvis’s campaigns were the first to make it beyond the local level. The first “official” Mother’s Day service was actually a memorial ceremony, held at Jarvis’s church, in 1908; the 500 carnations given out at that first celebration have given way to the widespread custom of distributing carnations to mothers on this day. For Anna, the floral choice was easy: Carnations were her mother’s favorite flowers.

Did you know? Mother’s Day yields the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Most churches honor their congregation’s mothers in some way—with a special prayer, perhaps, or in many congregations with a flower.

MOTHER’S DAY: FROM ANCIENT ORIGINS TO TODAY

While the modern observance of Mother’s Day began just a century ago, celebrations for women and mothers have been common throughout history. Greeks worshipped the mother goddess Cybele, while the Romans held the festival of Hilaria; Christians have observed Mothering Sunday for centuries, while Hindus have honored “Mata Tirtha Aunshi,” or “Mother Pilgrimage Fortnight.” The first American attempts for a “Mother’s Day for Peace” arose in the 1870s, when Julia Ward Howe called on mothers to support disarmament in the Civil War and Franco-Prussian War. Several decades later, Anna Jarvis created a holiday that became the Mother’s Day we know today.

Despite Jarvis’s best efforts, though, the commercialization of Mother’s Day was inevitable: Mother’s Day is now one of the most financially successful holidays on the American calendar—mainly because it is the most popular day of the year to eat out and to make phone calls. Yet it is with Mom in mind that Americans spend $2.6 billion on flowers annually for Mother’s Day; $1.53 billion on gifts; and $68 million on greeting cards. We love you, Mom!

FOR MOM: DIY, GIFTS THAT GIVE & MORE

Woman and little girl with cups smiling

Photo courtesy of pxhere

  • Cooking Mom brunch? Look to Martha Stewart (for gift ideas, too!) and AllRecipes.
  • In search of the perfect gift? Kaboose offers up do-it-yourself ideas for kids, while Mother Nature Network suggests gifts for moms who love gardening. For unique moms, Huffington Post has “weird” gifts, and Fox News suggests gifts that will boost Mom’s health.
  • Care to care more? The Mother’s Day Movement supports women and girls in the developing world, with the belief that empowered women strongly impact the lives of their children and their communities. Help these women by donating your portion of the $14 billion spent annually on Mother’s Day.
  • A good read: Columnist Bobbie Lewis writes about the importance of actually setting aside time to talk to Mom and to listen to her. She calls her story Questions Left Unanswered; Stories Left Untold. Simple. And, a great idea.
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