How do people around the world celebrate Mother’s Day?
Our mums hold a special place in our hearts. Even if, as adults, we might decide to move away from them physically, making sure we remain close emotionally is often a priority. And that’s why celebrating Mother’s Day is so important for people all around the world - especially those who are separated by distance.
Mother's Day is celebrated in more than 50 countries, and we are going to take a look at the different ways it’s marked across the globe, answering:
- Why do we celebrate Mother’s Day?
- When do people around the world celebrate Mother’s Day?
- Some facts about Mother’s Day
- How do we celebrate Mother’s Day?
Of course, Mother’s Day is a chance to show our Mum how much we care and how much we appreciate all she does for us. But, what are the origins of Mother’s Day? Why do we celebrate it at all?
A brief history of Mother’s Day
Like many modern-day celebrations, the roots of festivals that celebrate mothers and motherhood can be traced back as far as the ancient Greeks and Romans. According to History.com, festivals in honour of the mother goddesses, Rhea and Cybele, were held. But our Mother’s Day celebrations today are very different from those. In the UK, and some other parts of Europe, Mother’s Day comes from an early Christian festival, which was originally called “Mothering Sunday”.
The date changes every year as it takes place on the fourth Sunday in Lent, but it was originally used to mark the day when Christians would return to their “mother church”— the main church near where they lived —for a special service. So, actually, Mother’s Day wasn’t really about mothers at all.
Mother’s Day as we know it
Mother’s Day, as we know it today, actually originated in the US and can be traced back to three women: Ann Reeves Jarvis, Julia Ward Howe, and Anna Jarvis.
While the early settlers in the US didn’t take the “Mothering Sunday” tradition with them, in the 19th century, before the start of the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis (from West Virginia) pioneered “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs”. These were designed to teach local women how to properly care for their children.
After the Civil War, these clubs became an important part of local communities and in 1868 Anne Reeves Jarvis came up with the idea of “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” on which mothers and soldiers would meet in order to attempt reconciliation.
Around the same time, suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation”, asking mothers to come together to promote world peace. In 1873 she fought to have “Mother’s Peace Day” celebrated every year on June 2nd.
However, it wasn’t until the 1900’s that Mother’s Day as we know it became official. Anne Reeves Jarvis died in 1905 and her daughter, Anna Jarvis came up with the idea of honouring the impact mothers made on their children by celebrating mothers on a specific day every year. The first “Mother’s Day” was held in May 1908 and was such a success that Anna was determined to have her holiday added to the national calendar. She wrote hundreds of letters, arguing that US holidays were focused mainly on male achievements. She asked politicians to create a special day to honour motherhood.
It didn’t take long to catch on: by 1912 Mother’s Day was a holiday in many states and her hard work eventually paid off in 1914, when the President, Woodrow Wilson, officially declared that the second Sunday in May would be known as Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day in the UK
Back in the UK, Mothering Sunday was really the only day in the year on which families could all be together. It was the only day that servants were given off.
Often, on the way to church, children - often those returning back home from their work placements - would pick flowers to give to their mothers. Over time this evolved into a tradition of giving gifts.
Mothering Sunday became less popular in the early-20th century, but was revived in the 1950’s when businesses realised it was an opportunity to make money and promoted it in this way. [Culture Trip]
Regardless, the sentiment remains and we think it’s a great opportunity to show our mums we care.
In the UK and Ireland, Mother’s Day is still traditionally held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This year, it falls on Sunday March 14th .
According to Calendarpedia, Mother’s Day in most countries (including: the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, the Philippines, South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Venezuela and many countries in Europe and Africa) falls on the second Sunday of May. This year that is May 9th.
Most Eastern European countries celebrate Mother's Day on March 8th, while many Arab countries celebrate Mother's Day on March 21st, which is the vernal equinox (when day and night are the same length).
Mother's Day dates around the world:
- In Mexico, Mother’s Day is held on May 10th
- In Thailand, Mother’s Day is held on the Queen’s birthday: August 12th
- In Russia, Mother's Day used to be celebrated on March 8th (International Women’s Day) but it is now celebrated on the last Sunday of November (this year, November 28th)
- In Ethiopia, motherhood is generally celebrated in line with a multi-day festival called Antrosht
- In Indonesia, Mother’s Day is celebrated on December 22nd , which is also the 25th anniversary of the 1928 Indonesian Women Congress
Mother’s Day has become a huge celebration. Here are a few fun facts about the day:
- In the US, Mother's Day is the most popular day of the year to dine out at a restaurant
- This year, consumers in the US are expected to spend a whopping $21.2bn on Mother's Day. Lucky mums!
- More than 150m Mother’s Day cards are exchanged in the US every year and around 30m cards are sent in the UK; Mother’s Day is the third largest card-sending holiday after Christmas and Valentine’s Day. [Office Holidays]
- In the UK, flower sales increase by around 70% on Mother’s Day.
- Carnations, specifically, have a special meaning on Mother's Day. Anna Reeves Jarvis started this tradition, using a red carnation to celebrate your mother if she is still alive, and a white one to commemorate her if she had passed away.
- More phone calls are made on Mother’s Day than any other day of the year and phone traffic can increase by as much as 37%.
- Although the name of the event is usually understood as a "day belonging to mothers", which would normally be spelled "Mothers' Day", we actually tend to use “Mother’s Day”, which means the "day belonging to Mother".
- In India, while a westernised version of Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May, Hindus also celebrate Durga Puja in October. This festival appreciates the goddess Durga and the triumph of good over evil.
- It is similar in Peru, where the indigenous population, also celebrates Mother Earth (or Pachamama) in early August. She is thought to be "the cause of earthquakes and a bringer of fertility” and her day is called Martes de Challa. [Care.com]
Traditionally in the UK, Mother’s Day is marked with visits to church and bouquets of hand-picked flowers but modern-day Mother's Day celebrations around the world look a little different. Most countries celebrate with gifts, but there are a few exceptions...
- In Mexico, Mother’s Day is taken very seriously with music, food, celebrations, and songs
- In Thailand, jasmine is the most common gift.
- In France, as well as giving gifts, children will traditionally do chores for their mums, and the day generally ends with a feast.
- In Serbia, Mother’s Day celebrations usually take three days and are part of a series of celebrations that include Children's Day and Father's Day, which take place on consecutive Sundays. On Children's Day, children are tied up and must agree to behave before they are unbound. On Mother's Day, it’s the mum's turn to be tied up, until she gives treats and gifts to her children. On Father's Day, you guessed it, dad is tied up until they give the Christmas gifts. [Care.com]
If tying your mum up isn’t appealing, here are some great ways to show your mum you care.
- Make – or order - breakfast in bed for her. With lockdown restrictions, or distance, ordering her favourite brunch is a wonderful way to show her you care.
- While flowers are beautiful, buying her a new houseplant might be a lovely way to remind her that you care every day.
- If you are lucky enough to be able to spend Mother’s Day with your mum, why not treat her to a day off? Let her put her feet up while you take care of things.
- While day trips and mini breaks might not be on the cards at the moment, why not plan something you can do together when you’re able to? Plan a trip to a spa, or a trip to a city she hasn‘t visited, and send her a voucher to give her something to look forward to.
Many of us live too far from our mum to be able to enjoy these things with her. A great option is always to send money home, to give her the opportunity to treat herself. Depending on where she lives, here at Small World we offer a number of ways to do this. One might even be mobile top-up, which allows her to call you without having to worry about the cost.