Do you know the true history of Mother’s Day? It might be surprisingly different than you would expect. Read on to find out more!


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The History of Mother’s Day


Mother’s Day celebrations can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks. They held festivals to honor the Mother Goddesses Cybele and Rhea.

The early Christians celebrated in the form of a festival called “Mothering Sunday.” This festival was popular in Europe and the United Kingdom and was celebrated during Lent when many people visited their “mother church” in their local villages.


Cybele Monument located in Madrid celebrating the Goddess Cybele on Mother's day.

Cybele Monument located in Madrid celebrating the Goddess Cybele.


As time went on, the festivals turned into more traditional holidays celebrated in the home where children would appreciate their mother’s by giving them flowers and small gifts. The tradition carried over to the United States with the new settlers and immigrants.


History of Mother’s Day in the United States


Though Mother’s Day tradition was brought over by the settlers, the day was not celebrated as a National Holiday. It was more of a custom.

However, during the years before the Civil War, the day was adopted for other purposes. Ann Reeves Jarvis, who was from West Virginia, created “Mother’s Day Work Clubs.” These clubs were set up to help mothers learn how to better care for their children.

Later, after the Civil War, West Virgina was in a region of the country that was torn between the Confederate and the Union. Jarvis stepped up again to incorporate “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” into “Mother’s Friendship Day.” Now, Mother’s Day was adopted as a day for mothers to come together of both confederate and union soldiers to promote peace and reconciliation.

A bit later, abolitionist and suffragette, Julia Ward Howe further incorporated Mother’s Day into “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” The day was now used to promote world peace. In fact, Howe campaigned for the day to be called “Mother’s Peace Day,” and to be celebrated on June 2nd.


The Modern Tradition of Mother’s Day


Following Ann Reeves Jarvis’ death in 1905, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, promoted Mother’s Day as a National day preserved for children to honor their mothers. In 1908, the holiday was first recognized and celebrated at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virgina.

The day quickly became recognized by department stores where children could buy small gifts for their mothers. In fact, this day saw thousands of people visiting Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia after Mother’s Day was notably advertised as a holiday in Philly.

By 1912, many cities, towns, and even churches had adopted Mother’s Day as a holiday. Jarvis then established Mother’s Day International Association to help spread the awareness of Mother’s Day internationally, as well as nationally.

In 1914, Woodrow Wilson made the holiday official and signed a measure which established Mother’s Day as the second Sunday of every May.


Happy Mother's Day


Jarvis Criticizes the Commercialization of Mother’s Day and Disowns the Day


By 1920, Mother’s Day became extremely commercialized as it was promoted as a day to buy presents for your mother. In fact, if you didn’t buy your mother a gift, it was frowned apon.

The commercialization of Mother’s Day upset Jarvis greatly. She envisioned Mother’s Day as a day to celebrate your mother and to attend church services ─ not a day for stores to make money. Instead, card companies, florists, candy makers, and other merchants capitalized on this new holiday.

Jarvis actively urged people to remember the true meaning of Mother’s Day and to stop buying cards and other gifts. She even launched lawsuits against organizations who used the name “Mother’s Day” to make money. By her death in 1948, Jarvis had spent most of her wealth on fighting lawsuits and had disowned Mother’s Day altogether.


Mother’s Day Today Around the World

Today, in the United States, the day is still a highly commercialized holiday as it’s celebrated by buying gifts. In fact, it’s one of the biggest consumer spending days of the year.

Other parts of the world keep Mother’s Day closer to its original meaning. However, traditions vary depending on the country.

For example, in Thailand, this day is celebrated on the current Queen’s birthday, which is Queen Sirikit, and in August.

And, in Ethiopia, families gather every Fall to celebrate “Antrosht,” a multiday feast filled with songs honoring motherhood.



Final Thoughts

The team at Zen Sports Balm wishes all mother’s an awesome Mother’s Day!

Enjoy your day!



Happy Mother's Day