Tomorrow, mothers in the United States will receive phone calls, candy, and homemade art projects. It’s the one day a year they’ll hopefully get to sit back, put up their feet, and enjoy a little rest and relaxation as their children try to show their thanks and appreciation by wishing their mothers a “Happy Mother’s Day.”
Though Mother’s Day has been celebrated on the second Sunday in May for only a century, many ancient cultures around the globe have honored mothers through various celebrations. Ancient Romans celebrated Hilaria, a festival and feast honoring Cybele, the mother Goddess and the British devoted the fourth Sunday during Lent to “Mothering Sunday,” during the 16th century. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson established Mother’s Day, after years of lobbying by the mother of the holiday, Anna Marie Jarvis.
Anna Jarvis’ mother, Ann Jarvis, had attempted to establish a version of Mother’s Day during the Civil War as a time for remembrance. After the holiday failed to catch on, Anna recalled hearing her mother pray for a memorial day for mothers. When her mother died in May, 1905. Two years later, Jarvis held a memorial for her mother and her good deeds. The next year, she again held a service, and gave away carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to all that attended. Red and pink carnations were to be worn for living mothers, and white for those who had passed away. Jarvis wanted all to attend church and afterward, for children to spend time writing a note of appreciation to their mothers.
She formed a committee and in 1910, West Virginia became the first state to adopt the the holiday. Soon, Jarvis began to raise awareness and support, and in 1914, President Wilson declared the second Sunday in May “Mother’s Day.”
In the early 1920s, florists began heavily marketing carnations and greeting card companies began to sell Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis hated this, as her intention was for children to write hand-written, personal notes. Though she spent almost a decade trying to establish the holiday, she eventually turned against its commercialization and was arrested for protesting at a Mother’s Day carnation sale. Jarvis spent the rest of her life trying to end Mother’s Day.
Though it’s a profitable day for retailers, phone companies, and florists, the spirit of Mother’s Day is still what Jarvis intended. This Sunday, children all over the country will take the time to appreciate and thank their mothers.
Watch a History of Mothers Day: