The Origins of Mother’s Day

The history of Mother’s Day has evolved significantly over time. While ancient Greeks and Romans held festivals to honour mother goddesses like Rhea and Cybele, the modern version of the celebration has different origins. In the United Kingdom and some parts of Europe, Mother’s Day stems from an early Christian festival known as Mothering Sunday.

Mothering Sunday takes place on the fourth Sunday in Lent, and its date changes every year. Contrary to its name, it wasn’t initially about mothers. Instead, it was a day when Christians would return to their mother church – the main church in the area where they lived – to attend a special service.

Over time, this tradition evolved into a more secular event, where people would visit their mothers and present them with gifts.

In the United States, Mother’s Day as we know it today was first celebrated in 1908, thanks to the efforts of Anna Jarvis. She wanted to honour her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, who had been a peace activist during the American Civil War. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as a national holiday to honour mothers.

While these traditions have distinct origins, they all share the common theme of celebrating and appreciating mothers and motherhood. Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated in various ways around the world, often with gifts, cards, and special outings to show love and gratitude towards our mothers.

Some facts about Mother’s Day

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
  • 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.
  • 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.