Why We Celebrate Mother's Day All Over the World

Updated on September 6, 2019
CatherineGiordano profile image

I'm an author of a book of essays. My poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

Let's Celebrate Our Mother on Her Special Day

Mothers are special, and no one is more special than our own mother. The celebration of Mother’s Day goes back to ancient times, but it has changed over the years. Understanding the history of this holiday and enjoying some famous quotes about mothers will strengthen your appreciation of the day.

Let's celebrate Mother's Day, which is a day set aside to honor mothers.
Let's celebrate Mother's Day, which is a day set aside to honor mothers. | Source

What Are the Ancient Origins of the Holiday?

It was first celebrated in Ancient Greek and Roman times.

  • The Greeks had a festival to honor Rhea, wife of Cronus and mother to many of the Greek deities.

  • The Roman festival goes back to at least 250 years BCE. The festival, called Hilaria, was held in honor of the mother goddesses Cybele. It lasted three days and included parades, games, and masquerades.

  • The early Christians had a celebration for the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ. It occurred on the fourth Sunday of Lent.

Mothering Sunday

In medieval times in England, the holiday became known as Mothering Sunday. The day was not only about venerating the Virgin Mary, but also about returning to Mother Church. It was the day for Christians to return to their home churches, the churches of their birth, for worship.

Over time, it became a day to also honor one’s own mother. Servants and employees were given a day off from work to visit their mothers. It became customary for people to bring their mothers gifts and flowers. Mothers were also presented with a special fruit cake called simnel or fruit-filled pastries.

England and Ireland still celebrate Mothering Sunday. It is now both a religious and a secular holiday. (I like how they call it "Mothering Sunday." It makes it sound like they are honoring not only mothers, but also the act of mothering.)

To Mom, with love: Flowers are a traditional gift for mothers on Mother's Day.
To Mom, with love: Flowers are a traditional gift for mothers on Mother's Day. | Source

What Are the Origins of the Modern Form of the Holiday?

The holiday began in the United States in the 1900s. It is now celebrated in 47 different countries. In the United States, it is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, as it is in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. Mexico also celebrates it, but in that country the date is fixed on May 10.

Other countries have their own versions of the holiday.

  • In Panama, it is celebrated on December 8, when the Catholic Church honors the Virgin Mary.

  • In Thailand, it is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen, Sirikit.

  • In much of the Arab world, it is celebrated on March 21, which is on about the first day of spring.

  • In Ethiopia, families gather in the fall to celebrate Antrosht, a multi-day celebration and feast honoring motherhood.

In the United States, Mother's Day became a holiday due to the efforts of Julia Ward Howe and, later, Anna Jarvis.

I love you, Mom: A handmade card for Mother's Day will be cherished for years.
I love you, Mom: A handmade card for Mother's Day will be cherished for years. | Source

Who Was Julia Ward Howe, and What Is Her Connection to the Holiday?

Julia Ward Howe was a well-known activist—abolitionist, suffragette, and an advocate for peace. She was also a writer and poet famous for writing the Civil War song The Battle Hymn of the Republic. She issued a Mother’s Day Proclamation on June 2, 1870. In 1873, she began the custom of celebrating Mothers’ Peace Day on the second Sunday in June. She wanted the holiday honoring mothers to be celebrated as a day dedicated to peace.

Julia Ward Howe Mother's Day Proclamation urged an end to war.
Julia Ward Howe Mother's Day Proclamation urged an end to war. | Source

Who Was Anna Jarvis, and What Is Her Connection to the Holiday?

Anna Jarvis, who never married and who bore no children, is considered the "Mother of Mother’s Day." In 1908, she organized the first official celebration of Mother’s Day in a Methodist church in Grafton, Philadelphia.

Anna Jarvis was inspired to work towards establishing a day to honor mothers by her own mother, Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, an activist and social worker, who often expressed the idea of a day to honor all mothers, living and dead, for their contributions to society. When Anna’s mother died in 1905, Anna was determined to bring her mother’s wish to fruition.

Anna Jarvis' Efforts to Establish Mother's Day

Anna Jarvis thought American holidays were biased towards male achievements and a holiday was needed to honor women. She organized a massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and politicians and established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause.

By 1912, many states, towns, and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Jarvis wanted Mother’s Day to be a time for families to honor their own mothers. It was not a day to honor all mothers. Thus the day is called “Mother’s Day” (the day of a mother) and not “Mothers’ Day” (with the plural form of “mother”).

More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year. These holiday chats with Mom often cause phone traffic to spike by as much as 37 percent.

How Has the Holiday Changed Since Its Inception?

Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. But the holiday soon became commercialized as florists, card companies, and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

Perhaps she should not have been surprised by this commercialization. One of her earliest supporters was John Wannamaker, the owner of department stores. Perhaps he foresaw how this holiday would benefit his business.

Jarvis' Campaign Against Commercialization

By 1920, Jarvis was openly urging people not to celebrate this day by buying flowers, cards, and candies for their mothers. She began to campaign against companies that she saw as Mother’s Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists, and even charities. She filed law suits to stop them from using the name “Mother’s Day” for commercial purposes.

By the time of her death in 1948, Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and she even actively lobbied the government to remove it as a national holiday. She died penniless in a sanatorium after spending her personal fortune to fight the commercialization of Mother’s Day.

Today, It's the Second Biggest Holiday for Consumer Spending

There is an ironic analogy in this. Mothers often see their children grow up to become the kinds of people they disapprove of. Anna Jarvis “birthed” Mother’s Day, but could not control what it would become. It became the second-biggest holiday, second only to Christmas, in terms of consumer spending.

  • Americans alone spend between $18 to $20 billion each year for Mother’s Day gifts and celebrations.
  • The average American will spend about $160 to $170 for this holiday.

Do you think Mother's Day is too commercialized?

See results
God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers. —Jewish proverb
God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers. —Jewish proverb | Source

How Is the Holiday Celebrated?

On Mother’s Day, it is traditional for children to give mothers a greeting card, flowers, candy, and even gifts like jewelry, perfume, or other personal items. (Husbands also get into the act, giving gifts to their wives to show their appreciation to the mother of their children.) Additionally, mothers are often given the day off from household chores and cooking. Consequently, this holiday is one of the biggest days for restaurants.

However, Mother’s Day is not all about spending. The holiday has also been a date for supporting charitable, political, or feminist causes.

What Are Some Famous Quotes About Being a Mother?

  • God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers. —Jewish Proverb
  • Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. —Elizabeth Stone (Author)
  • Motherhood: The most exhausting, emotional, rewarding and life-enhancing journey a woman can take. —Charlotte Pearson (Sociologist)
  • All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. —Abraham Lincoln (President)

And a poem:

No painter’s brush, nor poet’s pen

In justice to her fame

Has ever reached half high enough

To write a mother’s name.

—Author Unknown

Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason.
Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. | Source

What Are Some Famous Quotes About a Mother’s Love?

  • A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. —Victor Hugo (Author)
  • Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that supposed to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing. —Toni Morrison (Author, quoted from Beloved, 1987)
  • A father may turn his back on his child, brothers and sisters may become inveterate enemies, husbands may desert their wives, wives their husbands. But a mother’s love endures through all. —Washington Irving (Author)
  • Mothers are the people who love us for no good reason. —Maggie Gallagher (Writer)
  • The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. —Honore de Balzac (Author)
  • Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever. —Unknown

What Are Some Famous Quotes About the Power of Mothers?

  • The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. —W. R. Wallace (Author, Poet)
  • That best academy, a mother’s knee. —James Russell Lowell (Poet, Editor, Diplomat)
  • The mother’s heart is the child’s school-room. —Henry Ward Beecher (Clergyman)
  • One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters. —George Herbert (Anglican priest, Poet)

What Are Some Funny Quips About Mothers?

  • Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother. —Author Unknown
  • Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. —Ambrose Bierce (Journalist, Satirist)
  • All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his. —Oscar Wilde ( Author, quoted from "The Importance of Being Earnest," 1895)
  • If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands? —Milton Berle (Comedian)
  • You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool mom. —Author Unknown
  • The mother of boys works son-up to son-down. —Author Unknown

A Special Gift for Mother

I'm A Mom, What's Your SuperPower?" 12oz Coffee Mug Great Gift for Mother (1, Red)
I'm A Mom, What's Your SuperPower?" 12oz Coffee Mug Great Gift for Mother (1, Red)
A hand painted ceramic mug with the words, "I'm a Mom. What's Your Superpower?" It beats the trite "World's #1 Mom" mug hands down. I didn't want to wait for my kid to give it to me; I bought it for myself. It makes me smile every morning.

Jimmy Kimmel: Shocking Things Kids Don't Know About Their Mothers

© 2015 Catherine Giordano

How do you celebrate your mother's special day?

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    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      5 years ago from Orlando Florida

      ChitirangadaSharan: I agree with you 100%. Nonetheless, as a mother, I enjoy having my special day.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      A very interesting hub indeed about Mother's day!

      I believe we should love and respect our mothers and every mother every day. But there is no harm in assigning a special day for it.

      Lovely thoughts, voted up!

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      5 years ago from Orlando Florida

      FlourishAnyway: I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub about motherhood. Once a mother; always a mother. I'm trying to explain that to the "emerging adult" in my house. Thank you for commenting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Beautifully done. I love that Freudian slip quote! Motherhood is the world's hardest but also the most rewarding job. There's no retirement from it.

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      5 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Peachpurple. Good point. Women turn into their mothers. That is why the advice to men is to take a close look at your intended's mother. Thanks for commenting.

    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i like oscar wilde quote, very true, all moms make their daughters into them too

    • CatherineGiordano profile imageAUTHOR

      Catherine Giordano 

      5 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks Billybuc. I agree. Except I didn't write about the carnations.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I would call that a fairly comprehensive guide to Mother's Day. :)


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