Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring mothers and motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in March, April or May. It complements Father’s Day which is a celebration honoring fathers.
Mother’s Day is an American invention, and it is not directly descended from the many celebrations of mothers and motherhood that have occurred throughout the world over thousands of years, such as the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the Christian Mothering Sunday celebration. Despite this, in some countries Mother’s Day has become synonymous with these older traditions
The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother in America. She then began a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday in the United States. Although she was successful in 1914, she was already disappointed with its commercialization by the 1920s. Jarvis’ holiday was adopted by other countries and it is now celebrated all over the world. In this tradition, each person offers a gift, card, or remembrance toward their mothers, grandmothers, and/ or maternal figure on mother’s day.
In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and created the Mother’s Day International Association. She specifically noted that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honour their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.” This is also the spelling used by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in the law making official the holiday in the United States, by the U.S. Congress in relevant bills, and by various U.S. presidents in their proclamations concerning Mother’s Day. However, “Mothers’ Day” (plural possessive) or “Mothers Day” (plural non-possessive) are also sometimes seen.
As the American holiday was adopted by other countries and cultures, the date was changed to fit already existing celebrations honoring motherhood, such as Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom or, in Greece, the Orthodox celebration of the presentation of Jesus Christ to the temple (2 February). Mothering Sunday is often referred to as “Mother’s Day” even though it is an unrelated celebration.
In some countries the date was changed to a date that was significant to the majority religion, such as Virgin Mary day in Catholic countries. Other countries selected a date with historical significance. For example, Bolivia’s Mother’s Day is the date of a battle in which women participated.
Ex-communists countries, such as the former East Germany, usually celebrated the socialist International Women’s Day instead of the more capitalist Mother’s Day. Some ex-communist countries, like Russia, still follow this custom or simply celebrate both holidays, which is the custom in the Ukraine.
In most countries, Mother’s Day is a recent observance derived from the holiday as it has evolved in the United States. As adopted by other countries and cultures, the holiday has different meanings, is associated with different events (religious, historical or legendary), and is celebrated on different dates. In some instances, countries already had existing celebrations honoring motherhood, and their celebrations then adopted several external characteristics from the American holiday, such as giving carnations and other presents to one’s mother.
The extent of the celebrations varies greatly. In some countries, it is potentially offensive to one’s mother not to mark Mother’s Day. In others, it is a little-known festival celebrated mainly by immigrants, or covered by the media as a taste of foreign culture.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the holiday is strongly associated with revering the Virgin Mary. In many Catholic homes, families have a special shrine devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In many Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox C
hurches, a special prayer service is held in honor of the Theotokos Virgin Mary.
In the Hindu tradition Mother’s Day is called “Mata Tirtha Aunshi” or “Mother Pilgrimage fortnight”, and is celebrated in countries with a Hindu population, especially in Nepal. The holiday is observed on the new moon day in the month of Baisakh, i.e., April/May. This celebration is based on Hindu religion and it pre-dates the creation of the Western-inspired holiday by at least a few centuries.
Mother’s Day in most Arab countries is celebrated on March 21, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. It was introduced in Egypt by journalist Mustafa Amin in his book Smiling America (1943). The idea was overlooked at the time. Later Amin heard the story of a widowed mother who devoted her whole life to raising her son until he became a doctor. The son then married and left without showing any gratitude to his mother. Hearing this, Amin became motivated to promote “Mother’s Day”. The idea was first ridiculed by the Egyptian president but he eventually accepted it and Mother’s Day was first celebrated on March 21, 1956. The practice has since been copied by other Arab countries. When Mustafa Amin was arrested and imprisoned, there were attempts to change the name of the holiday from “Mother’s Day” to “Family Day” as the government wished to prevent the occasion from reminding people of its founder. These attempts were unsuccessful and celebrations continued to be held on that day; classic songs celebrating mothers remain famous to this day.
In Afghanistan, Mother’s Day was celebrated on 12 June 2010, on the second Saturday in June.
In Argentina, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of October. The holiday was originally celebrated on October 11, the old liturgical date for the celebration of the Virgin Mary. After the Second Vatican Council the Virgin Mary festivity was moved to January 1st. Around 1982, national merchants asked that Mother’s Day be moved to the third Sunday of October to stimulate sales in the second half of that month.
In Australia, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.
The tradition of giving gifts to mothers on Mother’s Day in Australia was started by Mrs. Janet Heyden in 1924. She began the tradition during a visit to a patient at the Newington State Home for Women, where she met many lonely and forgotten mothers. To cheer them up, she rounded up support from local school children and businesses to donate and bring gifts to the women. Every year thereafter, Mrs. Heyden raised increasing support for the project from local businesses and even the local Mayor. The day has since become commercialized. Traditionally, the Chrysanthemum is given to mothers for Mother’s Day as the flower is naturally in season during May (autumn in Australia) and ends in “mum”, a common affectionate shortening of “mother” in Australia. Men will often wear a chrysanthemum in their lapels in honour of mothers.
In Bangladesh, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of the month of May. In observance of the day discussion programs are organized by government and non-governmental organizations. Reception programs and cultural programs are organized to mark the day in the capital city. Television channels air special programs, and newspapers publish special features and columns to mark the day. Greeting cards, flowers and gifts featuring mothers are in high demand at the shops and markets.
In Belgium, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. In the week before this holiday children make little presents at primary school, which they give to their mothers in the early morning of Mother’s Day. Typically, the father will buy croissants and other sweet breads and pastries and bring these to the mother while she is still in bed – the beginning of a day of pampering for the mother. There are also many people who celebrate Mother’s Day on August 15th instead; these are mostly people around Antwerp, who consider that day, Assumption, the classical Mother’s Day and the observance in May an invention for commercial reasons.
In Bolivia, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 27th. El Dia de la Madre Boliviana was passed into law on November 8, 1927. During the Bolivian War of Independence women fighting for the country’s independence were slaughtered by the Spanish army. It is not a festive day, but all schools hold activities and festivities throughout the day.
In Brazil, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. The first Mother’s Day in Brazil was promoted by the Young Men’s Christian’s Association of Porto Alegre) on May 12, 1918. In 1932, then President Getulio Vargas made the second Sunday of May the official date for Mother’s Day. In 1947, Archbishop Jamie de Barros Camara, Cardinal-Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, decided that this holiday would be included in the official calendar of the Catholic Church. Mother’s Day is not an official holiday but it is widely observed and typically involves spending time with and giving gifts to one’s mother. Because of this, it is considered one of the celebrations most related to consumerism in the country, second only to Christmas Day as the most commercially lucrative holiday.
In Bulgaria, March 8th is associated with International Women’s Day. The holiday honours women as human beings and equal partners. Another Bulgarian holiday related to maternity and the family is Babinden which is celebrated on the 8th of January.
Mother’s Day in Canada is celebrated on the second Sunday in May (it is not, however, a public holiday or bank holiday), and typically involves small celebrations and gift-giving to one’s mother, grandmother, or other important female figures in one’s family. Celebratory practices are very similar to those of other western nations, such as Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Many people in Canada express their gratitude towards mothers and mother figures on Mother’s Day. A Québécois tradition is for Québécois men to offer roses or other flowers to the women.
Mother’s Day is becoming more popular in China. Carnations are a very popular Mother’s Day gift and the most sold flowers in relation to the day. In 1997 Mother’s Day was set as the day to help poor mothers and to remind people of the poor mothers in rural areas such as China’s western region. In the official newspaper, an article explained that “despite originating in the United States, people in China accept the holiday without hesitation because it is in line with the country’s traditional ethics – respect for the elderly and filial piety towards parents. Mother’s Day remains an unofficial festival, except in a small number of cities.
In the Czech Republic, Mother’s Day is celebrated every second Sunday in May. It started in former Czechoslovakia in 1923. After World War II communists replaced Mother’s Day by International Woman’s Day, celebrated on March 8th. The former Czechoslovakia celebrated Women’s Day until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. After the split of the country in 1993, the Czech Republic started celebrating Mother’s Day again.
In Estonia, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. It is recognized nationally, but is not a public holiday.
In France, amidst alarm at the low birth rate, there were attempts in 1896 and 1904 to create a national celebration honoring the mothers of large families. In 1906 ten mothers who had nine children each were given an award recognizing “High Maternal Merit”. American World War I soldiers fighting in France popularized the US Mother’s Day holiday created by Anna Jarvis. They sent so much mail back to their country for Mother’s Day that the Union Franco-Americaine created a postal card for that purpose. In 1918, also inspired by Jarvis, the town of Lyon wanted to celebrate a “journée des Mères”, but instead decided to celebrate a “Journée Nationale des Mères de familles nombreuses.” The holiday was more inspired by anti-depopulation efforts than by the US holiday, with medals awarded to the mothers of large families. The French government made the day official in 1920 as a day for mothers of large families. Since then the French government awards the Medaille de la Famille francaise to mothers of large families.
In the 1920s, Germany influential groups in society (politicians of left and right, churchwomen, and feminists) believed that mothers should be honored but could not agree on how to do so. However, all groups strongly agreed on the promotion of the values of motherhood. In 1923, this resulted in the unanimous adoption of Muttertag, the Mother’s Day holiday as imported from Americaand Norway. The head of the Association of German Florists cited “the inner conflict of our Volk and the loosening of the family” as his reason for introducing the holiday. He expected that the holiday would unite the divided country. In 1925, the Mother’s Day Committee joined the task force for the recovery of the volk, and the holiday stopped depending on commercial interests and began emphasizing the need to increase the population in Germany by promoting motherhood. The holiday did not celebrate individual women, but an idealized standard of motherhood. The holiday is now celebrated on the second Sunday of May, in a manner similar to other nearby European countries.
Mother’s Day in Greece is celebrated on the second Sunday of May.
In Hungary, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of May. It was first celebrated in 1925 by the Hungarian Red Cross Youth.
The modern Mother’s Day has been assimilated into Indian culture, and it is celebrated every year on the second Sunday of May. In India, mothers are considered as god to their children. Indians do not celebrate the occasion as a religious one, but do their best to thank their mothers for care and love. Traditionally, mothers are given great importance in Indian culture. The day is celebrated mostly in urban centers, by performing special acts to honour them and their contribution to the family. As per Hindu tradition, mothers are paid homage to on Saraswati pooja day during Devi Navrati, with “Maatru Pooja” (worship of mother).
Indonesian Mother’s Day (Hari Ibu) is celebrated nationally on December 22, 1953 22 December. The date was made an official holiday by Presidential Decree, the 25th anniversary of the 1928 Indonesian Women Congress. The day originally sought to celebrate the spirit of Indonesian women and to improve the condition of the nation. Today, the meaning of Mother’s Day has changed, and it is celebrated by expressing love and gratitude to mothers. People present gifts to mothers (such as flowers) and hold surprise parties and competitions, which include cooking and kebaya wearing. People also allow mothers a day off from domestic chores. Indonesia also celebrates the Kartini Day on April 21st, in memory of activist Raden Ayu Kartini. This is a celebration of the emancipation of women. The observance was instituted at the 1938 Indonesian Women Congress.
In Iran, Mother’s Day is celebrated on 20 Jumada al-thani. This is the sixth month in the Islamic calendar and every year the holiday falls on a different day of the Gregorian calendar. This is the birthday anniversary of Fatimah, Muhammad’s only daughter according to Shia Islam orthodoxy. Mother’s Day was originally observed on December 16th, but the date was changed after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The Islamic regime used the holiday as a propaganda tool to undercut feminist movements and to promote role models for the traditional concept of family. Fatimah was the chosen model of a submissive woman who was completely dedicated to traditional female roles. The celebration is both Women’s Day and Mother’s Day.
Israel – The Jewish population celebrates Mother’s Day on Shevat 30 of the Jewish calendar, which falls between January 1 and March 31. The celebration was set as the same date that Henrietta Szold died. Henrietta had no biological children, but her organization Youth Aliyah rescued many Jewish children from Nazi Germany and provided for them. She also championed children’s rights. Szold is considered the “mother” of all those children, and that is why her annual remembrance day was set as Mother’s Day. The holiday has evolved over time, becoming a celebration of mutual love inside the family, called Family Day. Mother’s Day is mainly celebrated by children at kindergartens.
In Ireland, Mother’s Day is celebrated on Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent.
Mother’s Day in Italy was celebrated for the first time on 12 May 1957, in the city of Assisi, thanks to the initiative of Rev. Otello Migliosi, parish priest of the Tordibetto church. This celebration was so successful that the following year Mother’s Day was adopted throughout Italy. On December 18, 1958 a proposal was presented to the Italian Senate to make official the holiday. It is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.
In Japan, Mother’s Day was initially commemorated during the Showa period as the birthday of Empress Kojun (mother of Emperor Akihito) on March 6th. This was established in 1931 when the Imperial Women’s Union was organized. In 1937, the first meeting of “Praise Mothers” was held on May 8th, and in 1949 Japanese society adopted the second Sunday of May as the official date for Mother’s Day in Japan. Currently Mother’s Day in Japan is a rather commercial holiday, and people typically give their mothers gifts of flowers such as red carnations and roses.
Mother’s Day in Latvia was celebrated for the first time in 1922. Since 1938, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. It is recognized nationally, and is a public holiday.
The first mention of Mother’s Day in Malta occurred during the Radio Children’s Programmes run by Frans H. Said in May 1961. Within a few years, Mother’s Day became one of the most popular dates in the Maltese calendar. In Malta, this day is commemorated on the second Sunday in May. Mothers are invariably given gifts and invited for lunch, usually at a good quality restaurant.
In Mexico, the government imported the Mother’s Day holiday from the US in 1922, and the newspaper Excelsior held a massive promotional campaign for the holiday that year. The conservative government tried to use the holiday to promote a more conservative role for mothers in families, but that perspective was criticized by the socialists as promoting an unrealistic image of a woman who was not good for much more than breeding. The government sponsored the holiday in the schools. Today the “Día de las Madres” is an unofficial holiday in Mexico held each year on May 10th.
In the Netherlands, Mother’s Day was introduced as early as 1910 by the Dutch branch of the Salvation Army. The Royal Dutch Society for Horticulture and Botany, a group protecting the interest of Dutch florists, worked to promote the holiday; they hoped to emulate the commercial success achieved by American florists. They were imitating the campaign already underway by florists in Germany and Austria, but they were aware that the traditions had originated in the US. In 1931 the second Sunday of May was adopted as the official celebration date. In the mid-1930s the slogan Moederdag – Bloemendag (Mother’s Day – Flower’s Day) was coined, and the phrase was popular for many years. In the 1930s and 1940’s “Mother’s Day cakes” were given as gifts in hospitals and to the Dutch Queen, who is known as the “mother of the country”.
Nepal. “Mata Tirtha Aunsi” (“Mother Pilgrimage fortnight”), or “Mata Tirtha Puja” (“Mother Pilgrimage offering”), falls on the last day of the dark fortnight of the Baishakh month (April/May). The dark fortnight is fifteen days from the full moon to the new moon. “Mata” means mother. “Tirtha” means pilgrimage. This festival is observed to commemorate and respect mothers and is celebrated by worshipping, giving gifts to mothers, and remembering mothers who have died. To honor mothers who have died, it is traditional to go in pilgrimage to the Mata Tirtha ponds, which are six miles south west of central Katmandu. The nearby Marta Tirtha village is named after these ponds. Previously, the tradition was observed primarily by people from Newar communities and people living in the valley. Now, this festival is widely celebrated by many communities. In Nepali “Aama ko Mukh Herne Din”, the literal translation is “to see Mother’s face”.
In New Zealand, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. Mother’s Day is not a public holiday. The New Zealand tradition is to give cards and gifts and to serve mothers breakfast in bed.
In Nicaragua, the Día de la Madre has been celebrated on 30 May since the early 1940s. The date was chosen by President Somoza, because it was his mother-in-law’s birthday.
In Maldives, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 13th. The day is celebrated in different ways. Children give gifts and spend time with their mothers. Daughters give their mothers cards and handmade gifts and sons give their mothers gifts and flowers. Maldivians love to celebrate Mother’s day, and they have it specially written on their calendar.
In Pakistan, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. Media channels celebrate with special shows. Individuals honor their mothers by giving gifts and commemorative articles. Individuals who have lost their mothers pray and pay their respects to their loved ones lost.
In Panama, Mother’s Day is celebrated on December 8th, the same day as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This date was suggested in 1930 by the wife of Panama’s President. December 8th was adopted as Mother’s Day in 1930 and established as a national holiday
Palestinians celebrate Mother’s Day on March 21st, similar to other Arab countries
In Paraguay, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 15th, the same day as the Dia de la Patria, which celebrates the independence of Paraguay. This date was chosen to honor the role played by Juana María de Lara in the events of 14 May 1811 that led to Paraguay’s independence. In 2008 the Celebration Committee of the city of Asuncion asked that Mother’s Day be moved to the second Sunday of May.
Mother’s day in the Philippines is celebrated every second Sunday of May. A Filipino mother is called the “light of the household” around which all activities revolve. Families treat mothers to movies or lunch or dinner out, spend time with their mothers in a park or shopping at the mall, or give their mothers time to pamper themselves. Most families celebrate at home. Children perform most chores that the mother routinely handles, prepare food or give their mothers small handcrafted tokens such as cards. Although in its current form Mother’s Day is not a traditional Filipino holiday, this and Father’s Day owe their popularity to American influence.
In Poland, “Dzień Matki” (“Mother’s Day”) is celebrated on May 26th.
In Portugal, “Dia da Mãe” (“Mother’s Day”) is an unofficial holiday held each year on the first Sunday of May (sometimes coinciding with Labour Day).
In Romania, since 2010, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of May. Both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are official holidays in Romania. Previously, Mother’s Day was celebrated on 8th of March, as part of International Women’s Day (a tradition from the days when Romania was part of the communist block). Now Mother’s Day and Women’s Day are two separate holidays, with Women’s Day keeping its original date of March 8th.
In Russia, the Mother’s Day holiday was established in 1998 by law initiated by “Committee on Women, Family and Youth” of the State Duma. Since 1998, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of November.
Traditionally Russia had celebrated International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day on 8 March, an inheritance from the Soviet Union, and a public holiday. Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1913 and in 1914 was proclaimed as the “day of struggle” for working women.
In Singapore, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May. The day is celebrated by individuals but not recognized as a holiday by the government. However, many companies offer special products and services for the day.
Slovakia – Czechoslovakia celebrated only Women’s Day until the Velvet Revolution in 1989. After the country split in 1993, Slovakia started celebrating both Women’s Day and Mother’s Day. The politicization of Women’s Day has affected the official status of Mother’s Day. Center-right parties want Mother’s Day to replace Women’s Day, and social-democrats want to make Women’s Day an official holiday. Currently, both days are festive, but they are not “state holidays”. In the Slovak Republic, Mother’s Day is celebrated every second Sunday in May.
In Sri Lanka, Mother’s Day is celebrated every year on the second Sunday of May. Although relatively new to Sri Lanka, this occasion is now becoming more popular, and more people now honor their mothers on this day. Mother’s Day is celebrated by individuals but is not yet recognized as a holiday on the government calendar. However, the day has a commercial importance with many companies that offer special products and services for the day.
In Sweden, Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1919, by initiative of the author Cecilia Bååth-Holmberg. It took several decades for the day to be widely recognized. Swedes born in the early nineteen hundreds typically did not celebrate the day because of the common belief that the holiday was invented strictly for commercial purposes. This was in contrast to Father’s Day, which has been widely celebrated in Sweden since the late 1970s. Mother’s Day in Sweden is celebrated on the last Sunday in May. A later date was chosen to allow everyone to go outside and pick flowers.
In Switzerland, the “règle de Pentecôte” law allows Mother’s Day to be celebrated a week late if the holiday falls on the same day as Pentecost. However, in 2008, merchants declined to move the date.
In Taiwan, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of the month of May, coinciding with Buddha’s birthday and the traditional ceremony of “washing the Buddha”. In 1999 the Taiwanese government established the second Sunday of May as Buddha’s birthday, so they would be celebrated in the same day. Since 2006, the Tzu Chi, the largest charity organization in Taiwan, celebrates the Tzu Chin Day, Mother’s Day and Buddha’s birthday all together, as part of a unified celebration and religious observance.
Mother’s day in Thailand is celebrated on the birthday of the Queen of Thailand (August 12th). The holiday was first celebrated around the 1980’s as part of the campaign by the Prime Minister of Thailand to promote Thailand’s Royal family. Father’s Day is celebrated on the King’s birthday.
Turkey celebrates Mother’s Day (“Anneler günü”, literally “Mothers’ Day”) on the second Sunday of May.
Ukraine celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May. In Ukraine, Mother’s Day officially became a holiday in 1999 and is celebrated since 2000. Since then Ukrainian society struggles to transition the main holiday that recognizes woman from the International Women’s Day to Mother’s Day.
The United Kingdom celebrates Mothering Sunday, which falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This holiday has its roots in the church and was originally unrelated to the American holiday. Most historians believe that Mothering Sunday evolved from the 16th-century Christian practice of visiting one’s mother church annually on Laetare Sunday. As a result of this tradition, most mothers were reunited with their children on this day when young apprentices and young women in service were released by their masters for that weekend. As a result of the influence of the American Mother’s Day, Mothering Day transformed into the tradition of showing appreciation to one’s mother. The holiday is still recognized in the original historical sense by many churches, with attention paid to Mary the mother of Jesus Christ as well as the concept of Mother Church. Mother’s Day is now the time of year to celebrate and buy gifts of chocolate or flowers for their mothers as a way to thank them for all they do throughout the year.
The United States celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. In 1872 Julia Ward Howe called for women to join in support of disarmament and asked for 2 June 1872, to be established as a “Mother’s Day for Peace”. Her 1870 “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world” is sometimes referred to as Mother’s Day Proclamation. The current holiday created by Ann Jarvis in Grafton West Virginia in 1908 as a day to honor one’s mother. President Woodrow Wilson made the day an official national holiday in 1914. Moreover, going to church is also popular on Mother’s Day, yielding the highest church attendance after Christmas Eve and Easter. Many worshipers celebrate the day with carnations, colored if the mother is living and white if she is dead. Mother’s Day continues to be one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions.
It is possible that the holiday would have withered over time without the support and continuous promotion of the florist industries and other commercial industries. Other Protestant holidays from the same time, such as Children’s Day and Temperance Sunday, do not have the same level of popularity. Mother’s Day is also prominent in the Sunday comic strips in the newspapers of the United States, expressing emotions ranging from sentimental to wry to caustic.