Sunday May 9, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Mother’s Day
On this Day:
Today is Mother’s Day in many parts of the world.
Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as 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 the months of March or May. It complements similar celebrations honoring family members, such as Father’s Day, Siblings Day, and Grandparents Day.
The modern holiday began in the United States, at the initiative of Anna Jarvis in the early 20th century, who organized the first Mother’s Day service of worship and celebration at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, which serves as the International Mother’s Day Shrine today. It is not directly related to the many traditional celebrations of mothers and motherhood that have existed throughout the world over thousands of years, such as the Greek cult to Cybele, the mother deity Rhea, the Roman festival of Hilaria, or the other Christian ecclesiastical Mothering Sunday celebration (associated with the image of Mother Church). However, in some countries, Mother’s Day is still synonymous with these older traditions.
The American version of Mother’s Day has been criticized for having become too commercialized. Founder Jarvis herself, who began the celebration as a liturgical observance, regretted this commercialism and expressed that this was never her intention. In response, Constance Adelaide Smith successfully advocated for Mothering Sunday as a commemoration of a broader definition of motherhood in many other parts of the English-speaking world.
The modern holiday was first celebrated in 1907, when Anna Jarvis held the first Mother’s Day service of worship at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine. Her campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. She and another peace activist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe had been urging for the creation of a Mother’s Day dedicated to peace. 40 years before it became an official holiday, Ward Howe had made her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870, which called upon mothers of all nationalities to band together to promote the “amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.” Anna Jarvis wanted to honor this and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.
In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law’s Day”. However, owing to the efforts of Anna Jarvis, by 1911 all U.S. states observed the holiday, with some of them officially recognizing Mother’s Day as a local holiday (the first being West Virginia, Jarvis’ home state, in 1910). In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
Although Jarvis, who started Mother’s Day as a liturgical service, was successful in founding the celebration, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved. Jarvis argued that people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude, instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards. Jarvis protested at a candy makers’ convention in Philadelphia in 1923, and at a meeting of American War Mothers in 1925. By this time, carnations had become associated with Mother’s Day, and the selling of carnations by the American War Mothers to raise money angered Jarvis, who was arrested for disturbing the peace.
Internationally, there were immediate concerns surrounding the exclusive association of Mother’s Day with a biological definition of motherhood. Constance Adelaide Smith instead advocated for Mothering Sunday, an already-existing Christian ecclesiastical celebration in which the faithful visit the church in which they received the sacrament of baptism, as an equivalent celebration. She referred to medieval traditions of celebrating Mother Church, ‘mothers of earthly homes’, Mary, mother of Jesus, and Mother Nature. Her efforts were successful in the British Isles and other parts of the English-speaking world.
In 1912, Anna Jarvis trademarked the phrase “Second Sunday in May, Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, Founder”, and created the Mother’s Day International Association. She specifically noted that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.” This is also the spelling used by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his 1914 presidential proclamation, by the U.S. Congress in relevant bills, and by various U.S. presidents in their proclamations concerning Mother’s Day.
While the United States holiday was adopted by some other countries, existing celebrations, held on different dates, honoring motherhood have become described as “Mother’s Day”, such as Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom or, in Greece, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of the presentation of Jesus Christ to the temple (2 February of Julian Calendar). Both the secular and religious Mother Day are present in Greece. Mothering Sunday is often referred to as “Mother’s Day” even though it is an unrelated celebration.
In some countries, the date adopted is one 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 a fixed date, commemorating a battle in which women participated to defend their children.
Some countries, such as Russia, celebrate International Women’s Day instead of Mother’s Day or simply celebrate both holidays, which is the custom in Ukraine. Kyrgyzstan has recently introduced Mother’s Day, but “year on year International Women’s Day is certainly increasing in status”.
In most countries, Mother’s Day is an observance derived from the holiday as it has evolved in the United States, promoted by companies who saw benefit in making it popular. 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 cases, countries already had existing celebrations honoring motherhood, and their celebrations then adopted several external characteristics from the US 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.
First, a Story:
What did a grown up child say to their mom on Mother’s Day? “Mom, thanks for providing me with womb and board for all of these years!”
Second, a Song:
Singer Songwriter Gena Hill is creating original music and covers. Songs that speak to the soul offering comfort and strength (from YouTube.com).
Here is Gena performing “Mother’s Day Song: A Mother’s Love”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“My mother is a big believer in being responsible for your own happiness. She always talked about finding joy in small moments and insisted that we stop and take in the beauty of an ordinary day. When I stop the car to make my kids really see a sunset, I hear my mother’s voice and smile.” – Jennifer Garner
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky