Celebrating Mother’s Day Around The World
This Mother’s Day, take a moment to learn about the history of the holiday and how it’s celebrated around the world!
The Mother’s Day we celebrate today in the U.S. traces its roots back to Ann Jarvis, a social activist living in Virginia in the mid-1800s. Ann was a spirited, resourceful woman who dedicated her life to supporting mothers in any way she could. After she passed away in 1905, her daughter Anna Marie Jarvis vowed to honor that legacy.
Anna organized a special memorial service at her local church to commemorate the work of not only her own mother, but all mothers. A few years later, she began a long campaign to have Mother’s Day recognized as a national U.S holiday, and in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation declaring the second Sunday in May an official holiday to honor mothers across the country.
Many countries around the world celebrate their own unique versions of Mother’s Day. In Ethiopia, for example, the last day of the Antrosht festival in the fall rainy season is dedicated to mothers. Sons and daughters bring home a variety of local ingredients, which are made into a traditional hash recipe, and the whole family sings and dances the night away.
The French Mother’s Day, called Fête des Mères, originated as a day to honor mothers of large families, since the government was worried about low birth rates. It usually falls on the last Sunday of May, and children present their mothers with poems, handmade cards, and other arts and crafts.
India has adopted a typical, westernized Mother’s Day, where children prepare and serve their mothers their favorite dishes. Hindus in India also celebrate a festival called the Durga Puja in October to honor the mother goddess Durga, representing the triumph of good over evil, and the entire family spends weeks in preparation.
In Japan in the late 20th century, Mother’s Day became a way to comfort mothers who had lost their sons to World War II. Carnations are a symbol of a mother’s strength in Japanese culture; children used to give red carnations to their mothers on this holiday, or wear a white one if their mother had passed away.
Mothering Sunday was an early English tradition that started around 400 years ago and was celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. It was originally known as a day for the whole family to attend church together and involved baking special fruit cakes called Simnel Cakes, but in the 20th century it merged with the customs of the American holiday.
In Mexico, Mother’s Day is always on May 10th. The day is filled with flowers, music, and many bright colors, and it’s one of the busiest holidays of the year for restaurants across the country. Mariachi bands and a cappella groups often serenade mothers with the traditional birthday song “Las Mañanitas.”
Thailand’s current version of Mother’s Day falls on the queen’s birthday, August 12th, and was introduced in the late 20th century as a way to honor the royal family. During this holiday, mothers around the country come to their children’s schools, where each child pays respects to their mother by kneeling at her feet. The traditional gift for Mother’s Day in Thailand is the jasmine flower.
Some Mother’s Day Traditions in Peru are very similar to traditions in other countries, like giving flowers, cards, and other gifts. One unique difference is that many Peruvians gather in cemeteries to honor the mothers who’ve already passed away. Sometimes families hire workers to clean the tombstones of their loved ones and decorate them with flowers.
In Serbia, Mother’s Day is part of a series of holidays in December honoring the whole family. First, the kids are tied up with ribbon or string on Children’s Day, and must promise to behave before being untied. Then on Mother’s Day, the children get to tie their mom up until she gives them treats and small gifts. On Father’s Day, the dad gets tied up until he gives out the Christmas presents, and finally the family celebrates with a feast.
Australia celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May, and flowers play a big role in the holiday there. In addition to carnations, chrysanthemums are also a popular choice of gift, since Australians call their mothers “mum.” Children give presents to other mother figures in their lives as well, such as aunts and grandmothers.
Modern-day Russia has celebrated Mother’s Day on the last Sunday of November ever since 1998, but during the time of the Soviet Union, International Women’s Day in March was their primary holiday to honor women. Even with the introduction of Mother’s Day, most people still give gifts in March, rather than in November.
No matter where or how Mother’s Day is celebrated, the sentiment and emotion behind the holiday is the same. It’s a day to remember and appreciate all the time and energy, all the love, and all the sacrifices that go into what mothers do for their families. It’s a day to give back, in return for all our mothers have given us.