Mother’s Day like many modern holidays has been around for a while and has a history in North America that might surprise you. It is now a globally celebrated holiday with many vast traditions steeped in its own rich history.
History of Mother’s Day
Celebrations of motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. They held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele.
The current holiday of Mother’s Day that we identify within North America, didn’t occur until 1908. Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Church in West Virginia. By 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
However, Jarvis would later denounce the holiday due to its commercialization. She hated the profit the flower and greeting card companies were making off the event. She actually spent the latter part of her life trying to unsuccessfully remove Mother’s Day from the calendar.
Mother’s Day in France
In 1920, mothers of big families were given medals for helping to rebuild the population after the first World War.
These traditional gifts usually came in the form of a flower-shaped cake. In 1950, France established the “fetes des meres” on the fourth Sunday in May. Today, Mother’s Day in France looks very similar to the United States, with cards and flowers given to mothers as tokens of love.
Happy Mother’s Day in French: Bonne fête des Mères
Mother’s Day in Middle East
In many Arabic countries, Mother’s Day is celebrated on March 21, which coincides with the start of spring.
It was introduced in Egypt by journalist Mustafa Amin. After hearing the story of a widowed mother who had devoted her life to raising her son to become a doctor, only for him to marry and leave her without any show of gratitude.
Eventually, he managed to get the holiday accepted. Mother’s Day began as an annual celebration on 21 March 1956.
Happy Mother’s Day in Arabic: Eyd ‘am saeid– ( عيد ام سعيد )
Mother’s Day in Thailand
In Thailand, mothers are honored on August 12. This date purposely coincides with the birthday of “Her Majesty Queen Sirikit” who was born in 1932. She is considered to be a mother to all Thai people.
Traditionally children offer their mother jasmine flowers which symbolize motherhood. It is very common for schools to host a Mother’s Day ceremony where children kneel at their mother’s feet to pay respect and thank her.
Most people wear light blue and attend a royal ceremony in their hometown, which is usually followed by a performance of traditional Thai dancing.
Happy Mother’s Day in Thai: S̄uk̄hs̄ạnt̒ wạn mæ̀ ( สุขสันต์วันแม่ )
Mother’s Day in United Kingdom
England has a very old tradition of Mother’s Day. It dates back to the “Mothering Sunday” which is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This began as a spring Sunday where children would make a pilgrimage to their family church to visit the main cathedral. Mothering Sunday is still celebrated today though it is now generally a secular holiday where people give cards and gifts.
Common Mother’s Day gifts are cakes, flowers, chocolates, jewelry, or a fun family outing.
Happy Mother’s Day in the UK: Happy Mothering Sunday
Mother’s Day in Brazil
In Brazil, Mother’s Day was celebrated for the first time on May 12, 1918, in Porto Alegre.
Brazil has a special significance for the family. Many communities at times function as one family with a mother figure being at the head of the community. Mother’s Day is actually one of the most commercially celebrated holidays.
People go out with their families for brunch. Many restaurants have different treats to offer mothers and various desserts that are made specifically for the special day.
How do you say it in Portuguese: Feliz Dia das Mães
Mother’s Day in Ethiopia
Mother’s Day in Ethiopia is celebrated at the end of the fall season, as part of the three-day Antrosht Festival which is dedicated to moms. After the Festival, family members come home to celebrate with a feast.
Daughters traditionally bring vegetables, spices, and cheese. The sons bring the meat of various types, all these ingredients are combined in a traditional recipe. The whole family feasts, and praises the mother with dancing and singing.
Happy Mother’s Day in Amharic: melikami ye’inati k’eni ( መልካም የእናት ቀን )
Mother’s Day in Japan
Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May and is symbolized by beautiful carnations which represent the strength of mothers who are highly revered in Japanese culture.
Like most other countries, Mother’s Day is a day of pampering for moms. Kids help take over the household chores, have a special family meal, and give their mothers flowers and cards.
Happy Mother’s Day in Japanese: Haha no hi omedetō ( 母の日おめでとう)
Mother’s Day in Russia
In the former Soviet Union, mothers were celebrated on International Women’s Day on March 8.
However, in 1998, post-Soviet Russia changed the date to the last Sunday in November. However, most of the gift-giving and celebrations still happen in March around the time of the original Holiday.
Say it in Russian: S dnem materi ( С днем матери )
Mother’s Day in India
In culturally diverse India, a westernized version of this festivity is celebrated on the second Sunday in May.
However, many Hindus in India celebrate the goddess Durga. During a 10-day festival called Durga Puja in October focuses on the strength and bond of families. The celebrations may vary, but the love for mothers remains the same.
Happy Mother’s Day in Hindi: maatr divas kee shubhakaamana ( मातृ दिवस की शुभकामना )
Mother’s Day in Mexico
In Mexico, the event is always celebrated on May 10. When a woman died during childbirth, she was considered a “warrior” and, consequently, a person worthy of admiration and veneration. Family is the cornerstone of Mexican culture, but no one is more important than mom for many.
Similar to the celebration in America, Día de las Madres is about showing appreciation through flowers and gifts.
It is also customary to serenade the matriarch of the household with song, before attending church for a special mass. Then coming home to a meal, which has been specially prepared by the children.
A popular serenade is by mariachi singers called “Las Mañanitas.”
Say it in Spanish: ¡Feliz día de las Madres!
Mother’s Day in Germany
During WWII, the celebration took on political significance. This was the day to acknowledge women for producing children and adding to the German population. Medals were even awarded based on how many children were in the household.
Today, Muttertag takes place on the second Sunday in May with the giving of gifts, cards, and flowers, as well as festive meals.
Say it in German: Alles Gute zum Muttertag