Topical Talkers

The History of Mother’s Day.

As we near the day in the calendar (Sun, 10 Mar 2024 in the UK) set aside for appreciating everything our mums do for us, it got us wondering: when did we start celebrating Mother’s Day?
UK and US Mother’s Day traditions have completely different origins – but flowers are a key component of both!
Mothering Sunday in the UK
Mother’s Day in the UK has its origins in the 16th century custom of ‘Mothering Sunday’, which fell on the fourth Sunday of Lent. That’s three Sundays before Easter, and the tie-in with the church calendar is why it’s always a bit confusing trying to work out when it is each year. The tradition was that you paid your ‘mother church’ a visit – either the church where you were christened, or your parish church, or the nearest cathedral – and you were said to be ‘going a-mothering’ when you did so.
On this day, which came to be known as Mothering Sunday, servants were given the day off to go back to the parish they were born, with children and other family members also joining in. Because this occasion was a rare opportunity for a family get-together, the focus of the day gradually shifted to visiting not just the mother church, but one’s own mother.
On the way to the church, people gathered wildflowers to leave in the church and to present to their mothers. And, although the day fell during Lent, the austerity was relaxed for Mothering Sunday and people treated their mothers to edible gifts such as Simnel cake, ‘mothering buns’ or fig pie.
Mother’s Day in the USA
It was first celebrated in 1908 thanks to the efforts of a woman named Anna Jarvis, whose mother, Ann, had nursed soldiers in the American Civil War and founded ‘Mother’s Day Work Clubs’ to help tackle public health. Eager to continue her mother’s work, Anna was successful in getting a day dedicated to honouring mothers nationwide. She believed that a mother is: “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.
Mother’s Day became a national holiday in 1914 thanks to President Woodrow Wilson, and to this day it’s celebrated on the second Sunday in May. In case you were wondering where to put the apostrophe in ‘Mother’s Day’ when you’re writing your card, Anna Jarvis was keen to stipulate its position, saying that it should be “singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.” So, apostrophe before the S, not after it.
Mother’s Day around the World
While versions of Mother’s Day are celebrated worldwide, traditions vary depending on the country. In Thailand, for example, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.
Another alternate observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast as part of Antrosht, a multi-day celebration honouring motherhood.
What plans do you have this Mother’s Day?
A nice restuarant meal? bunch of flowers, chocolates and wine or a little holiday break? Ask your listeners what they will be doing this year.