We Got It from Our Mamas

Featured Image: History


Quite literally, we would be nothing without them. For nine months, they carried us with them, taking us on our first adventures. Every place was new and imaginary until one day when the nine months culminated in hours of screaming pain producing a tiny human being – you.

Moms are superheroes.

I know mine certainly is. If kicking cancer’s ass doesn’t make you a little bit of a superhero, then maybe we will just stick with the knowledge, strength, and independence she taught me through her actions as well as her words.

Today is the day we celebrate our mothers for showing us what’s right and what’s wrong. Today is the day we celebrate our mothers for teaching us how to ride a bike or tie our shoes. Today is the day we celebrate our mothers for deciding to become mothers.

But how did we get here?

Who decided that mothers deserved a specific day to be celebrated?

In the United States, Mother’s Day was created in 1908 by a woman named Anna Jarvis. Her purpose in celebrating this first Mother’s Day in West Virginia was to honor her own mother, who had passed away. The Senate first rejected the idea of making it an official holiday, but eventually, after much lobbying from flower, card, and candy companies, it won out and became an official holiday in the United States in 1914.

Jarvis loathed the idea of a commercialized Mother’s Day because she felt the whole thing was too impersonal. In her obituary, she was quoted with saying, “a printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who’s done more for you than anyone in the world.”

To be honest, I have to side with Jarvis on this one — being with your mom on Mother’s Day is preferable to just sending a card.  But, I can’t fault the convenience, especially if you don’t live close enough to your mother to visit. 

The commercialization of holidays, while arguably a great boost to the economy, actually makes the holidays mean less than if they weren’t commercialized. For Mother’s Day, what started out as a way for mothers to get the day off from their daily chores became something quite different as soon as companies realized they could profit from people’s lackadaisical tendencies and love for their mothers.

Jarvis would later regret her actions so much that she worked and lobbied against having Mother’s Day on the official U.S. calendar. By the time she died in 1948, she was descried as a “frail little spinster” by news reports and even, to some extent, her New York Times obituary. She never married and never had children of her own. Her sole purpose in life, it seems, was to undo her work getting Mother’s Day to be a national holiday because of what it became in our capitalized society; and even that didn’t provide her with much solace.

So Mother’s Day in the United States was quick to become a commercialized holiday, but what does it look like in other places?

Celebrations for our mothers can actually be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who held festivals in honor of the goddesses of creation. Today, those celebrations look very different.

In the U.K., Mother’s Day dates back to a Christian celebration known as “Mothering Sunday,” which was the fourth Sunday in Lent meant for celebrating mothers and the original mother – church. It also dates back to a tradition in the U.K. when young, poor children were sent away from the homes for a day to work as domestic servants, thus giving their mothers a much-needed break from their maternal duties.

In Japan, mothers are honored much like they are in the United States with kids taking over the household chores for the day. Children often draw pictures of their mothers and enter them into mother-themed art contests as well. But, perhaps a more beautiful tradition is the use of the carnation. In Japanese culture, mothers are revered and the carnation, given out to mothers on this day, represents the gentle strength exhibited by mothers across the globe.

In Peru, Mother’s Day is celebrated like it is in the United States – through commercialized goods, cards, and flowers. However, the indigenous Andeans also honor the Pachamama, a mythological goddess believed to bring earthquakes and fertility.

In Ethiopia, there is a three-day festival called Antrosht, dedicated to the celebration of mothers.

Perhaps the most interesting tradition I stumbled across in my research for this post is the Serbian tradition. In this tradition, Mother’s Day is one day among three – the other two are Children’s Day and Father’s Day – in which the family is celebrated. On Children’s Day, the tradition is to tie children up, releasing them only when they agree to behave. On Father’s Day, the dads are tied up until they give their families Christmas gifts. On Mother’s Day, the mothers are tied up until she provides yummy treats and small gifts to their children. Then, they feast. To me, this seems like a lot of rope to be used on a celebratory holiday, but hey, to each their own.

No matter which tradition strikes your fancy – cards, church, or lots and lots of rope – take this day to celebrate the woman who gave you life. And moms, keep on keepin’ on because you are amazing.




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