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The Origins of Mother's Day

Mother's DayMother's Day is, in many countries, a day for celebrating motherhood and thanking mothers. Mothers often receive gifts on this day, and it is a huge time of year for mail. In 1973, the U.S. Postal Service was held up for 8 days because of the constant flow of letters and cards.


Mother's day has evolved in many countries in different ways. This is because mother's day has different origins in different countries and therefore occurs on different days in the year.

One school of thought claims that this day emerged from the custom of mother worship in ancient Greece. Mother worship which kept a festival to Cybele, a great mother of gods, and Rhea, the wife of Cronus, was held on March 15 to March 18 around Asia Minor. They insist that this custom spread around the world.

Mothering Sunday is the celebration of motherhood in the United Kingdom. It takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This Sunday is also known as Mid-lent Sunday, Rose Sunday and Laetare Sunday. Traditionally the children will bring gifts of flowers and chocolates to their mother. Breakfast in bed is also an expectation, as is a relaxing, carefree day. It originally comes from the Victorian practice of allowing servants to return home to visit their mothers on this day.

United States Origins

Julia Ward Howe (May 27, 1819 - October 17, 1910) was a prominent American abolitionist, social activist, and poet. Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic was first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862 and quickly became one of the most popular songs for the Union during the American Civil War. After the war she focused her activities on the causes of Pacifism and women's suffrage. In 1870 she was the first to proclaim Mother's Day, with her Mother's Day Proclamation.

Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis (September 30, 1832 - May 9, 1905) was born in Culpeper, Virginia. Jarvis worked around what is now West Virginia to promote worker health and safety concerns. During the American Civil War she organized women to tend to the needs of the wounded of both sides. After the war she became active in the promotion of Mother's Day, a holiday at that time involved with the causes of pacifism and social activism. She organized meetings for mothers of soldiers on both sides of the late war.

Her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis (May 1, 1864 - November 24, 1948) of Grafton, West Virginia held a memorial to her mother on the second anniversary of her mother's death (1907) and then went on a quest to make Mother's Day a recognized holiday. In 1908 formal observances were held in churches in Grafton and Philadelphia. By 1911 every state celebrated the occasion on the second Sunday in May. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made the official announcement proclaiming Mother's Day as a national holiday and ordered the United States flag displayed on all public buildings.

Remember to tell your mom how much you appreciate her by going to see her, calling her, or sending her a gift. Mothers deserve at least one day a year to feel special.

sources:, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia 1997

Other Mother's Day Topics: Mother's Day Inspiration
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