Interesting facts about Mother’s Day


What’s the big deal about Mother’s Day and why do we all go about trying to buy gifts and organizing get-togethers around this internationally recognized occasion? Why the fuss indeed?

To find answers to these questions, I scoured the internet for some answers and dug up some gems that were not only interesting but were worth sharing, beginning with the origins of the word “mother.”

The Oxford dictionary offers a dry and succinct definition of the word “mother.” It merely states that a mother is “a female parent of a child or animal; a person who is acting as a mother to a child.”

What then is so special about a mother if this definition is to be followed?

To put that in context, I ran into American humorist Erma Bombeck, who offers this definition: “Mothers are not the nameless, faceless stereotypes who appear once a year on a greeting card with their virtues set to prose, but women who have been dealt a hand for life and play each card one at a time the best way they know how. No mother is all good or all bad, all laughing or all serious, all loving or all angry. Ambivalence rushes through their veins.

Abraham Lincoln also famously said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother,” referring to his mom, Nancy, who died when he was just 9 years old.

Noted American politician and religious leader James E. Faust also says, “The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.”

One of my favorites, however, comes from Calvin, of the famed Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, who offers the following observation about his sainted mom: “I asked Mom if I was a gifted child. She said they certainly wouldn’t have paid for me.”

Another interesting definition that explains why mothers are celebrated says: “A mother is a selfless, loving human who must sacrifice many of their wants and needs for the wants and needs of their children. A mother works hard to make sure their child is equipped with the knowledge.”

So when and where did Mother’s Day originate? According to the History Channel’s website, Mother’s Day celebration dates as far as the Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of their mother goddesses, Rhea and Cybele.

It was believed that the medieval British held a religious festivity known as Mothering Sunday, where the faithful went back to their “mother church” for a special service. Later on, the British broadened this festival to include human mothers as well.

Mother’s Day celebrations are held at different times in different parts of the world and the celebration also depends on the tradition of the country.

The second Sunday of May is widely celebrated as Mother’s Day in the United States and in several other countries that include Australia, Nigeria, Switzerland, and Greece. The United Kingdom still holds on to the tradition of Mothering Sunday and has Mother’s Day celebrations on the fourth week of Lent. In Thailand, mothers are celebrated in August to coincide with the birthday of Queen Sirikit, while Ethiopia celebrates Antrosht, where large feasts and singing are held to celebrate motherhood.

In the 1900’s, the efforts of West Virginia native Anna Jarvis to get Mother’s Day officially recognized as a holiday in the United States became tinged with controversy. Originally, Jarvis conceived Mother’s Day in honor of her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, who was an activist and an advocate for caring for children and promoting peace. In honor of mothers, the young Anna promoted the use of white carnation as a badge and encouraged a visit to one’s mother and attending church services. Mother’s Day became a public event in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1914 declaring the second Sunday of May as Mother’s Day.

The event grew in popularity and with that came the so-called commercialization of the event, where florists, card makers, and candy makers made a profit out of selling their goods as gifts. Unhappy that the holiday’s meaning veered away from her original intent of celebrating the personal, individual connection between a mother and her children, Jarvis used her own money to file lawsuits against profiteers of the event and lobbied to have the holiday removed from the calendar of national holidays.

One internet site says Jarvis put Mother’s Day on the calendar as a day dedicated to expressing love and gratitude to mothers, acknowledging the sacrifices women make for their children. Which is why she was determined to keep “Mother’s” a singular possessive, as marked by the apostrophe before “s.”

Today, Mother’s Day has grown into a billion-dollar industry not just for businesses but also for fundraising organizations. This year, Mary Meisenzahl from reports that the National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend $35.7 billion (about $110 per person in the U.S.) in Mother’s Day merchandise alone. This $4 billion is more than the previous record of $31.7 billion in 2022.

Today, these simple gestures have blossomed into larger efforts that are based on sales and profits. Before the COVID-19 virus took hold of the country, the Statistical Research and Analysis firm predicted that 2020 Mother’s Day spending could reach $26.7 billion.

Shopping, both online and retail stores, are tied as the preferred destinations to get Mother’s Day gifts, with flowers, greeting cards, and outings as the most popular gifts for this event. Of course, a majority of spending will be in jewelry.

Whatever the case may be, celebrating our mothers should be the end goal, while giving her thanks and recognizing her central role in our families.


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