Mother's Day

Mother's Day is celebrated around the world by many cultures. In the United States Mother's Day is observed on the second Sunday in May. Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Belgium celebrate Mother's Day on the same day. In England Mother's Day is held on the fourth Sunday of Lent, and in Argentina the second Sunday in October. The international observance is on May 11.

The origins of Mother's Day have been traced back to the annual spring festival of ancient Greece dedicated to Rhea, Mother of the Gods. Ancient Greeks would pay tribute with offerings at dawn. Early Christians celebrated a similar festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary. In England, the holiday was amended to include all mothers, and decreed it as Mothering Sunday.

Colonial Americans endured a rough existence leaving little time for festivities and the tradition of Mothering Sunday was lost until 1872 when Julia Ward Howe, the author of the lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, organized a day for mothers dedicated to peace. Ms. Howe would hold organized Mother's Day meetings in Boston, Massachusetts annually.

In 1907, Anna M. Jarvis (1864-1948), a Philadelphia schoolteacher, began a campaign to establish a national Mother's Day in honor of her mother, Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis. Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis was a dedicated Sunday school teacher in West Virginia, who moved with her family to Philadelphia before she died in 1905. As a Sunday school teacher she initiated the idea of mother?s friendship days, which later prompted her daughter, Anna, to initiate a national mother?s day in her honor. When Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis died, young Anna was devastated. She never married and lived with her blind sister, Ellsinore, grieving for her mother.

Anna wrote hundreds of letters to prominent businessmen and legislators on both state and national levels requesting a day to honor mothers. The first Mothers' Day observance was held on May 10, 1908. On this day Anna arranged church services in Grafton, West Virginia, and in Philadelphia. These services gave rise to the mothers' day tradition of wearing a red carnation if your mother is living, and a white one if she has died. In 1914, Anna's efforts were rewarded when President Woodrow Wilson made the official announcement proclaiming the second Sunday in May as a national holiday in honor of mothers.

Initially people observed Mother's Day by attending church, visiting and writing letters to their mothers, which eventually gave way to the modern practice of sending cards, presents, and flowers. Anna Jarvis was disappointed with the commercialization associated with Mother's Day; she felt that profiteers were undermining the significance of the day. In 1923 Anna filed a lawsuit to stop a Mother's Day festival, and was arrested for disturbing the peace at a convention selling carnations for a war mother's group. Before her death in 1948, Jarvis is said to have confessed that she regretted ever starting the mother's day tradition.

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