Some historians believe that the earliest celebrations of Mother’s Day was the ancient spring festival dedicated to mother goddesses. The ancient Greek empire had a spring festival honoring Rhea, wife of Cronus and mother of the gods and goddesses. In Rome there was a Mother’s Day-like festival dedicated to the worship of Cybele, also a mother goddess. Ceremonies in her honor began some 250 years before Christ was born. This Roman religious celebration, known as Hilaria, lasted for three days -from March 15 to 18.
ENGLAND’S MOTHERING SUNDAY
England’s “Mothering Sunday”, similar to Mother’s Day, also called Mid-Lent Sunday, is observed on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Some say the ceremonies in honor of Cybele were adopted by the early church to venerate the Mother of Christ, Mary. Others believe the Mother Church was substituted for mother goddess and custom began to dictate that a person visit the church of his/her baptism on this day. People attended the mother church of their parish, laden with offerings.
Also in England in the 1600’s, young men and women who were apprentices or servants returned home on Mothering Sunday, bringing to their mothers small gifts like trinkets or a “mothering cake”. Sometimes frumenty was served – wheat grains boiled in sweet milk, sugared and spiced.
In northern England and in Scotland, the preferred refreshments were carlings – pancakes made of steeped pease fried in butter, with pepper and salt. In fact, in some locations this day was called Carling Sunday.
Another kind of mothering cake was the simnel cake, a very rich fruit cake. The Lenten fast dictated that the simnel cake had to keep until Easter. It was boiled in water, then baked, and was often finished with an almond icing. Sometimes the crust was of flour and water, colored with saffron.
JULIA WARD HOWE
In the United States, Julia Ward Howe suggested the idea of Mother’s Day in 1872.
She wrote her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870.
Julia Ward Howe, a Boston poet, pacifist, suffragist, and author of the lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” organized a day encouraging mothers to rally for peace, since she believed they bore the loss of human life more harshly than anyone else.
THE FIRST MOTHER’S DAY
The first Mother’s Day observance was a church service honoring Mrs. Anna Reese Jarvis, held at Anna Jarvis’s request in Grafton, West Virginia, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 10, 1908.
Carnations, her mother’s favorite flowers, were supplied at that first service by Miss Jarvis. White carnations were chosen because they represented the sweetness, purity and endurance of mother love. Red carnations, in time, became the symbol of a living mother. White ones now signify that one’s mother has died.
The House of Representatives in May, 1913, unanimously adopted a resolution requesting the President, his Cabinet, members of Congress, and all officials of the federal government to wear a white carnation on Mother’s Day. Congress passed another Joint Resolution May 8, 1914, designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The U.S. flag is to be displayed on government buildings and at people’s homes “as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” President Woodrow Wilson issued the first proclamation making Mother’s Day an official national holiday.
Juliet Calhoun Blakeley
On May 13, 1877, the second Sunday of the month, Juliet Calhoun Blakeley stepped into the pulpit of the Methodist-Episcopal Church and completed the sermon for the Reverand Myron Daughterty.
According to local legend, Daughterty was distraught because an anti-temperance group had forced his son to spend the night in a saloon.
Proud of their mother’s achievement, Charles and Moses Blakeley encouraged other to pay tribute to their mothers.
In the 1880’s the Albion Methodist church began celebrating Mother’s Day in Blakeley’s honor.
OTHER MOTHER’S DAY OBSERVANCES
The first Mother’s Day proclamation was issued by the governor of West Virginia in 1910. Oklahoma celebrated Mother’s Day that year as well. By 1911 every state had its own observances. By then other areas celebrating Mother’s Day included Mexico, Canada, China, Japan, South America and Africa. The Mother’s Day International Association was incorporated on December 12, 1912, with the purpose of furthering meaningful observations of Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day is celebrated in many countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. The day is used by children and husbands to honor mothers and grandmothers for all that they do in raising children.