History of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. A celebration of motherhood. We’ve celebrated it all our lives but do we know the historical background of the holiday? I know that I didn’t.

According to Wikipedia, the ancient Greeks held a festival for Cybele, a great mother of Greek gods. An ancient Roman holiday called Matronalia was dedicated to Juno though the mothers were given gifts on that day.

From there, a 16th century Christian practice in the United Kingdom was visiting one’s mother church annually which meant that most mothers would be reunited with their children on that day.

Most historians believe that young apprentices and young women in servitude were released by their masters that weekend in order to visit their families. As a result of secularization, it is now principally used to celebrate and give thanks for mothers, although it is still recognized in the historical sense by some churches, with attention paid to Mary the mother of Jesus as well as the traditional concept ‘Mother Church

The United States has a unique history. Based loosely on the British day, it all started with an activist by the name of Julia Ward Howe after the American Civil War. What makes her unique is that her goal was not to celebrate motherhood but a call to unite women against war. She failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for Peace but her work inspired Ann Jarvis who wanted to improve sanitation through what she called Mother’s Work Days. After the Civil War, she worked to bring Union and Confederate neighbors together.

Her daughter, Anna Jarvis, carried on her work after her death. Anna started a crusade to found a memorial day for women.

The first such Mother’s Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on 10 May 1908, in the church where the elder Ann Jarvis had taught Sunday School. Originally the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, this building is now the International Mother’s Day Shrine (a National Historic Landmark). From there, the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states. The holiday was declared officially by some states beginning in 1912. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day, as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.

Interestingly enough, nine years after the first official Mother’s Day, commercialism became so bad that Anna Jarvis became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. Today, this holiday is one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions and also the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant.

“For example, according to IBISWorld, a publisher of business research, Americans will spend approximately $2.6 billion on flowers, $1.53 billion on pampering gifts — like spa treatments — and another $68 million on greeting cards [2]. Mother’s Day will generate about 7.8% of the US jewelry industry’s annual revenue in 2008. Americans are expected to spend close to $3.51 billion in 2008 on dining out for Mother’s Day, with brunch and dinner being the most popular dining out options “

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