Ever wondered why the date of Mother’s Day changes from year to year? Looking carefully between the flowers, chocolates and widespread commercialisation of our annual motherly celebration, traces of its origins from all over the world can be found.Thought to have evolved partly from ancient rites of goddess worship in ancient Greece and Rome, and partly from the 16th Century Christian practice of visiting one’s Mother Church annually, the modern British Mother’s Day is a hybrid celebration, drawing from various cultures.
The change from year to year in our British Mother’s Day is due to the holiday falling on the fourth Sunday after Lent – exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday – in line with its Christian origins. Interestingly, the only other countries to celebrate Mother’s Day on this date are Ireland and Nigeria, with the most popular alternative date being the Second Sunday in May – influenced perhaps unsurprisingly by the United States.
The US Mother’s Day, although thought to have been imported from Britain, was conceived originally as a rally to unite women following the American Civil War, supported by the 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation as a call for peace and disarmament. By 1914, the custom had reached 45 different US states, when President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day – as a day for American citizens to honour the countless mothers who had lost sons in World War One.
Within nine years of its first official celebration, Mother’s Day in the US was already suffering a backlash. Believing that rampant commercialism and marketing associated with Mother’s Day had masked its true significance, the original founder spent her family inheritance campaigning against the holiday, and subsequently died in poverty.
Such is the influence of the US on worldwide culture, that Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Croatia, New Zealand and Iceland. US commercialisation of the holiday has also been mirrored in the increasing profile of the date in Britain, with only traces of its original Christian roots to be found amongst the gifts and cards used nowadays to mark the occasion.
All cynicism over commercialism aside, I’m a big fan of Mother’s Day. Yes, it may have been hijacked by capitalist corporates, however that doesn’t make the card or the flowers I send my Mum any less of a gesture of love and appreciation.
Anna Jarvis, the founder of the US Mother’s Day, who rebelled so spectacularly against commercialisation of the holiday famously ranted; “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” However in these times of casual contact through telephone, email and text messaging, I think a well-chosen printed card received in the post indicates a degree of thoughtfulness that’s often missing from modern relationships.
Just in case I was actually being a bit wide-eyed and naïve, I decided to poll a couple of the girls here for their opinions on Mother’s Day – and here’s what they said…
“Yes it’s commercial, but it’s still a chance for me to let my Mum know how I feel about her – that I love and appreciate her.”
“It reminds you how much you care about your Mum – as well as her. I always make sure I send my Mum a card”
“I was given a Mother’s Day present from my boyfriend’s two kids from a previous marriage. They knew I wasn’t their Mum, but still wanted to say thanks for looking after them – it meant such a lot to me!”
So the long and short of it is (in my humble opinion…) that it’s nice to be nice. At the end of the day, my Mum’s just spent the best part of 30 years looking after me and caring about what happens to me – it’s only right that I should be saying thanks to her every so often!