As Mother’s Day Turns 107 Today, What Does a Mother Mean to You
We have so many holidays these days, but Mother’s Day truly is significant. There’s a lot of sayings that have mother in them. “Oh, my dear Mother of God”, “Mother of all Mother’s”, “Mother Earth”, “Mother Nature”, “a face only a Mother could love” and so many more. The reality is, celebrating a mother is to celebrate life itself, the giver of life. So where and when did this celebration of mothers and motherhood come from?
The earliest Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to the spring celebrations of ancient Greece in honor of Rhea, the Mother of the Gods. During the 1600’s, England celebrated a day called “Mothering Sunday”, celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent. This was a time put aside for relaxation and enjoyment during the long Lenten fast. Servants would go home to see their families, bringing cakes and sweets to their moms. This custom was called “going a-mothering”. Each mother would receive a simnel-cake (Latin for “fine flour”), and mothers would give a blessing to their children.
Other lore relates that centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or “mother” church once a year. So, every year during Lent, people would visit their “mother” church, generally the main church or Cathedral of the area.
Early Mother’s Day in the US was mostly recognized by women’s peace groups. An early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had served or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War. There were local celebrations in the 1870’s and the 1880’s, but nothing to speak of on a state or national basis. In 1868 Ann Jarvis created a committee to establish a “Mother’s Friendship Day” whose purpose was to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War. Jarvis wanted to expand it into an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular. Later, her daughter Anna Jarvis would continue her efforts.
Julia Howe, who had written The Battle Hymn of the Republic, organized a Mother’s Day antiwar observance in New York city on June 2nd, 1872. The observance continued in Boston for about 10 years before losing momentum. It is rumored that she had hoped to convert July 4, America’s Independence Day into Mother’s Day, and dedicate that day to peace. Several years later, a Mother’s Day observance was held in Albion, Michigan on May 13, 1877 over a dispute related to the Temperance movement. Later in the early 1880’s the Methodist Episcopal Church in Albion set aside the second Sunday in May to recognize the special contributions of mothers. In 1904, Frank E. Hering of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, made the first recorded public plea for a national day to honor mothers. However, it was not until 1914 that President Woodrow Wilson signed the orders that made Mother’s Day a national holiday in the United States. This was due largely to the continued efforts of Anna Jarvis (daughter of Ann Jarvis). She asked that white carnations be the official Mother’s Day symbol. In Canada, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the same day as the United States, the second Sunday of every May. On this Mother’s Day, don’t forget to reach out to your mother, your wife, or that special someone that has been in your life and filled that special role. Mothers are the givers of life and as so none of us would exist without them which is enough to celebrate them everyday.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers everywhere!
Brian McCullough, RE/MAX of Nanaimo