Updated: Apr 17, 2020
Mothering has to be the oldest profession, albeit unpaid. It may be without financial reward, but it ceratinly does not come without emotional reward. And alongside emotional reward, motherhood has long been the focus of celebrations and worship. In ancient Egypt, there was an annual festival honouring Isis, known as the mother of the pharoahs. In Ancient Greece, the mother of gods, Rhea, was worshipped in a spring festival. In Anatolia, Kybele (Cybele), the mother of the gods also had her own festival. The Romans had a festival in early spring to celebrate the Magna Mater goddess (Cybele) with Megalesia. There was also the festivals of Hilaria, again celebrating Cybele. These festivals involved celebrating the cult of Cybele and eating honey cake and giving flowers. Another precedent of the modern Mother's day was the christian 'mothering Sunday' in England, which was originally held to worship the mother church and the virgin mother Mary in the 16th century, but then later with a decree in the 17th century, became a day to honour mothers themselves with children giving their mothers tokens of appreciation, including 'Mothering cake'. This was a day especially for poor servants working and living away from their families to be able to go home and spend the day with their mothers.
The modern Mother's day originates from the United States of America. Julia Ward Howe, a suffragette and abolitionist, campaigned for a 'Mother's peace day' as a way to protest about the deathtoll of the civil war. However, the actual holiday that we now celebrate came into being in 1908 with Anna Jarvis' efforts. She created the day after the death of her own mother, who had organized 'Mother's friendship day' which was to promote reconciliation in the US after the civil war. Jarvis wanted a holiday to celebrate one's own mother in order to bring attention to the sacrifices that mothers make for their children. Because her mother loved carnations, Jarvis used carnations to represent her mother and thus the widespread carnations in Mother's day. Mother's day then became a holiday in the US in 1914 after Jarvis spent many efforts to secure this day as a national holiday, reasoning the lack of holidays based on women's achievements. Later Jarvis became very disappointed with the commercialisation of the holiday and tried to have it removed from the calendar and sadly used up her money and energy fighting for this. The day itself has roots in honouring one's own mother but also the role mothers have in society in general.
There are many international incarnations of mother's day in many countries, with many of them stemming from the US holiday, but some countries have their own holiday. England's Mother's day descends from 'Mothering sunday' and is the 4th Sunday in Lent. In Argentina, it is held in October, with fathers taking control of the family on this day, leaving the mother to rest. The children will present poems and flowers. In France, the holiday was brought into being in 1918 after the huge deathtoll of the WW1, which was focussed on celebrating mothers, especially those with many children, possibly as a way to encourage more childbirth to repopulate France. In Thailand, the holiday coincides with the birthday of the queen, Sirikit. In Ethiopa, the festival is at the end of the rainy season with a 3 day feast where daughters and mothers cover their faces with butter and men sing songs to honour them.